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In ‘Broadsword,’ a metal band’s thoughts get heavy

James D. Farruggio (from left) Cyd Blakewell John Gawlik John Kelly Connolly play mourners remembering musician believed dead “Broadsword: A

James D. Farruggio (from left), Cyd Blakewell, John Gawlik and John Kelly Connolly play mourners remembering a musician believed dead in “Broadsword: A Heavy Metal Play.” | Joshua Longbrake photo

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‘Broadsword:
A Heavy Metal Play’

Highly recommended

When: Through Nov. 24

Where: The Gift Theatre,
4802 N. Milwaukee

Tickets : $20-$30

Info: (773) 283-7071;
thegifttheatre.org

Run time: 90 minutes with one intermission

Updated: November 2, 2013 6:11AM



‘Broadsword, A Heavy Metal Play,” now in a meticulously tuned production at the Gift Theatre, begins with the appearance of the Man in White, whose identity is easy to decipher: He is the devil in the guise of a music producer, and he is making one of those impossibly enticing, “you could be a star if you went solo” pitches sure to seduce any musician in a going-nowhere band.

As it happens, the devil finessed this job about 16 years earlier. And Marco Ramirez’s play, a seductive mix of the real and the metaphysical, delves into what may have happened “back then,” as well as in the interim.

The tense reunion of the band comes in the form of a memorial for Richie, the mystic “genius” and only musically literate member of the band that rehearsed in the basement of his working class family’s Rahway, N.J., home. Richie recently disappeared and is believed dead — to the point where his family has held a funeral for him. But the question remains: How did it all go so wrong?

Ramirez (who has written for such TV series as FX’s biker hit “Sons of Anarchy” and Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black”) has crafted an intriguing, surprisingly moving meditation on success and failure, opportunities missed or squandered, and the nature of self-delusion (as well as self-knowledge) when it comes to one’s talent (or lack of it), drive, ambition and ability to cope with the adult world. But this play is far more than a look at arrested development among young metal rockers of the 1970s and their cassette tapes. There is some of that, but Ramirez probes deeper, as do director Keira Fromm and her fine actors.

Gathering in that unfinished Rahway basement (a sensational set by Stephen H. Carmody, ideally lit by Claire Sangster, with aptly eerie sound design by Miles Polaski) are the mourners who rehash it all. They include: Nicky (a comically explosive John Kelly Connolly), the drummer of the long-disbanded band, who works as a bartender; Victor (James D. Farruggio), the bassist, who does auto repair; Tony (a fiery John Gawlik), Richie’s “brother,” the singer-guitarist whose solo effort broke up the band, and Becca (a fervent Cyd Blakewell), the band’s resident “groupie,” now a single mother distraught over unfinished business.

There also is a visit by one Dr. Thorne (Chuck Spencer, spot-on), a weird British musicologist and nutcase who corresponded with Richie about mythology and “the music between the tones.”

As for the Man in White (a wonderfully smarmy Gabriel Franken), he is a first-rate Satan in Tom Wolfe clothing.

NOTE: Actor William Petersen, ever the storefront theater champion, was in the audience this weekend and said he is interested in helping the gifted Gift expand.

Email: hweiss@suntimes.com

Twitter: @HedyWeissCritic



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