Fringe Review: How to Be a Terrorist
When scavenging sticks for kindling, if it breaks it will burn. Lord Baden-Powell, the possibly-gay founder of the Boy Scouts, lived in a colonial encampment in Afghanistan with a manservant he called “the boy.” The quickest way to make young campers cry is to call them sub-human animals.
I learned at least three useful facts from Jimmy Grzelak's one-man show How To Be A Terrorist, so I can't say it was a wasted 45 minutes. However, the provocative title is a bit of a bait-and-switch, as I didn't really learn anything about terrorism, other than that a ball of dryer lint and a birthday candle can combine for a low-rent I.E.D. That's probably for the best, since a show promoting All-American anarchism isn't the smartest idea in this post-Boston Marathon era, but it leaves the show at a loss as to what it wants to be about.
Grzelak, garbed in his patch-covered polyester Eagle Scout uniform, starts by dumping a backpack full of debis on the stage, which is symbolic of his script's chaotic nature. As he skips in time and space from an opium poppy field to a camp kitchen, Grzelak offers up a multitude of ideas with dramatic potential, but none of them really congeal. He approaches the issue of being a gay teen in a notoriously homophobic organization, than abruptly veers away from this fertile subject, never to return.
There's a stomach turning tale of Cool Hand Luke-style meatball torture, a handful of witty observations (“Cooking fires are always legal, book burnings rarely are”) and some stick-figure puppet theater with an inappropriate moral. But each time the show starts to gain traction, Grzelak slips into another awkward half-falsetto character voice that is less of an impersonation than an affectation, or starts singing with a bizarro tone that sounds like a human theremin (and not necessarily in a good way).
When he stops “acting” and just speaks honestly to the audience his story is quite affecting, but those moments are too few and far between. Grzelak says “being really annoying is an asset in the Boy Scout world but, tends to lead to you getting beat up.” I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell him that the same is true at Fringe. He should just be glad I resisted the urge to pee in his sleeping bag.
Note: This review is based on a preview performance that the press was invited to attend.
How to be a Terrorist
Jimmy Grzelak (Southwick, MA)
Rating: G14 (Adult language)
Run Time: 55 minutes
Genre: Solo-Show, Music, Political, Comedy
Sat, May 18 2013, 10:45p.m. – 11:45p.m.
Tue, May 21 2013, 8:15p.m. – 9:15p.m.
Fri, May 24 2013, 8:45p.m. – 9:45p.m.
Sat, May 25 2013, 11:00p.m. – Sun, May 26 2013, 12:00a.m.