Not long ago, actor Daniel White played the lovable dwarf Bashful, gracing Snow White’s innocence at a kids’ theater in Bridgeport.
He’s making his New Haven debut in quite a different role: A loose-cannon survivalist in a military uniform, a man with a penchant for booze, psychedelic mushrooms, domestic violence, and international killing.
Fortunately he’s got a pretty ex-stripper wife who keeps him vaguely under control. Oh, have I mentioned the miscarried fetus that she keeps in a jar in the garage?
The survivalist and the stripper mix it up with another couple in Steve Bellwood’s new play The Specials, a wild roller-coaster ride in the lethal spirit of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf.
The play pits a lost academic couple against a hardscrabble violence-prone military couple who appear to rescue them from the boredom of an aimless road trip across America. Unpredictable, high octane and often foul-mouthed verbal sparring results.
If I had to write one of those New York Times 25-word reviews, I’d say: Albee’s George and Martha meet on a shot-out Beckett landscape, only it’s military housing with Jack Daniels, guns, and strip clubs galore.
The venue is Whitney Arts Center. Performances begin on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 14 and 15 at 8:00 and 3:00 p.m; Sept. 20 and 21 at 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday Sept. 21 at 3:00 p.m.
Bellwood is a longtime local stand-up monologuist and a playwright who over the years has appeared at Cafe Nine’s spoken word programs, at Neverending Books, and around town
For The Specials he’s teamed up his Jackdaw-Pike company with New York Theater Ensemble’s producer David Pilot and Director James Leaf, newcomers to town Irina Kaplan and White, along with Mariah Sage, the veteran actor who’s a principal with Theater 4.
Pilot said he was immediately drawn to Bellwood’s play, which he calls a “ritual confrontation” between two different parts of American society who are intolerant of each other and who cross sexual and moral boundaries in the play.
During a run-through before a dress rehearsal on Wednesday, Ivan, a soldier with the mysteriously unspecified “Specials,” had just demolished Diane, the liberal professor. He asserted her beliefs are a crock and the only unchanging rule in the universe is survival of the fittest.
Or as he says in the speech that he delivers with snarling intensity to the audience, “God takes no prisoners.”
Which is maybe why his 19-year-old wife Ruth, the character I’m rooting for most, gets her hands on crazed hubby’s revolver and aims it at her beloved before the play’s end.
Pilot said he thinks the play explores security, paranoia, and the intolerance whole parts of American society have for each other. That’s a subject not only worth exploring but “it’s a play ready for the mainstream. We hope it will be noticed,” Pilot said.