On the morning of September 11, 2001 broadcast journalist/ TV news producer Thomas Flynn–ever curious, ever the reporter, and sensing the enormity of the events already taking place not far from his Greenwich Village home–hopped on his bike and pedaled as fast as he could directly, and with consummate courage, toward the part of the city that would soon become known as Ground Zero.
“Bikeman”–a dramatization of the epic poem he wrote in the aftermath of those terrible events–is his story.
We see what he saw, hear what he heard: the heroic ambulance attendant calmly and decisively leading people to safety; the anguished mom crying–in one of the piece’s more gut-wrenching moments–“My baby! My baby!” over and over again; the shell-shocked businessmen stumbling away from the carnage like zombies. We “see” panicked office workers flinging themselves out of windows into the gray, smoky sky; we watch, mortified, as Flynn himself is temporarily trapped in a parking garage.
Stage vet Robert Cuccioli (“Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark”, “Jekyll and Hyde”, “Les Miserables”) plays Flynn with such blistering intensity that the no-frills, rhyme-free verse practically leaps off the stage. It’s a tour de force performance of the highest order (whole passages go by with no one speaking save for Cuccioli himself), but his fellow actors–Elizabeth Ramos, Richard Topol, Irungu Mutu, and Angela Pierce–are also effective as some of the strangers he meets, hero and victim alike.
Michael Bush directs with flash and vigor; we might not be in the middle of the maelstrom ourselves, but thanks to all the sound and lighting and special effects, it’d hard not to imagine that we are.
For those of us who witnessed 9-11 (I was home on that “forever September morning”, gaping open-mouthed at my TV), and even for those who didn’t, “Bikeman” isn’t an easy piece of theatre to sit through. It’s loud, it’s raw, and it’s real.
It is, in short, documentary theatre at its hard-hitting best.
THEATRE REVIEW by Stuart R. Brynien
(NOTE: “Bikeman” is playing at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center. Go to Bikeman911.com for performance dates and times.)