“Buzzer” – a most welcome revival at the Guthrie Theater

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What do a new show, an Ivey Award winning actor, the Guthrie Theater and two bloggers equal?  Opening night of the Pillsbury House Theatre’s production of “Buzzer”.  Being an Ivey Awards evaluator I knew “Buzzer” had received some acclaim in 2011 and one of the actors had won an award.  When I heard it was being revived at the Guthrie Theater, I knew I had to see it.  My blogger friend Jill aka Cherry and Spoon, and I had the privilege of seeing the show opening night.  It was intense yet funny, joyful yet sad, truthful yet painful and so much more.  

Jackson, an African American attorney, grew up in a bad part of the city.  He has become successful and decides to buy a place near his childhood home.  Jackson is convinced things are getting better and in ten years the area will be where everyone wants to live.  His girlfriend, Suzy, moves in with him along with his best friend, Don.  “Buzzer” is a dramatic piece with comedic moments that break the tension and cause the audience to engage.  Lessons of telling the truth, speaking what is on your mind, class, race, and relationships are explored.

Hugh Kennedy, who played the role of Don, was so captivating I had a hard time concentrating on the other two actors when the three of them were all together.  Little things make an actor shift from good to great.  Hugh’s pacing, gestures, phrases, complete surrender to the character and authenticity made him a believable recovering drug addict.  It is no wonder why he was the one who everyone was talking about and the recipient of an IVEY Award.

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The playwright, Tracey Scott Wilson did a wonderful job writing a strong dramatic piece.  For a new show, I give it a big thumbs up.  Since the production was one hour and forty minutes without an intermission, it allowed the audience members to connect and not lose sight of what was taking place.  The movement in between scenes was almost seamless which was helpful as well.  There were a few things that stood out to me that did not particularly strike my fancy.  The use of strong language may be an understatement.  Although I find profanity less than intriguing, I understand the use of it in dramatic theater.  However, there is a fine line between intensity and over the top misuse.  To me, the show bordered right on the line.  Also, when you have three “extras” who have ten to thirty seconds on stage there better be a pointed reason for it.  The first tenant seemed to be a filler.  The final two tenants made an impact and were used cleverly.  Maybe I missed something, I am just unaware as to why the first was used.

Of the handful of new works I have seen lately, this stands out among the rest.  To learn the significance of the title “Buzzer” visit the Guthrie Theater’s Dowling Studio through March 3rd.  Check their website for further details:  http://www.guthrietheater.org/

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