"Radiance," by Cusi Cram, upholds Labyrinth's rep for eccentricity, with its surreal treatment of the 1945 U.S. mission that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. But the peculiar slo-mo directorial style turns the point of the play into mush.
Labyrinth is a theater collective known to the downtown crowd as a fertile source of offbeat plays and innovative performance techniques. (Mainstem auds were introduced to their ensemble style when “The Motherfucker With the Hat” transferred to Broadway in 2011.) “Radiance,” by Cusi Cram, upholds the company rep for eccentricity, with its surreal treatment of the 1945 U.S. mission that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. But the peculiar slo-mo directorial style turns the point of the play into mush.
In a way, looking for the point of the play is actually beside the point, since it mainly takes place in flashback scenes burned on the brain of the protagonist, Robert Lewis (Kohl Sudduth). Lewis was the co-pilot on the B-29 bomber that dropped a megaton bomb on Hiroshima — the one who said, “My God, what have we done?” when he saw the devastation.
The play’s framework hangs on a single day in 1955 when Capt. Lewis ducks into a Los Angeles bar to avoid a television producer who wants him to relive his war experiences in a segment of “This Is Your Life.” For some reason, the blowsy bartender played by Ana Reeder (in a traffic-stopping dress by Emily Pepper) puts him in mind of a nurse he met in the war.
That memory is enough to trigger a flashback to Aug. 6, 1945, the day that Lewis and the rest of the flight crew of the Enola Gay took off for Hiroshima with “Little Boy” (an atomic bomb packing 16 uranium-enriched kilotons of TNT) in its belly.
In this nightmare, Lewis is bedeviled by Col. Paul Tibbets (Aaron Roman Weiner), the only crew member who was fully updated on the mission. Another unnerving voice from the past belongs to William Laurence (Kelly AuCoin), the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who covered the bombing of Nagasaki for the New York Times.
Sudduth (“Take Me Out”) delivers a credible characterization of Lewis, the war hero who did, indeed, “drop a bomb and win the war,” and is haunted by that deed for the rest of his days. But the lugubrious style that helmer Suzanne Agins has imposed on the production is such a drag that everyone seems to be sleepwalking. This may be Lewis’ personal nightmare, but surely these dream walkers can pick up the pace.
Artie, Laurence - Kelly AuCoin
Rob - Kohl Sudduth
Waxman, Tibbets - Aaron Roman Weiner