The backstory is intriguing, but in the end, the play Woody Harrelson scripted with his long-lost friend Frankie Hyman isn't delivering. Critics are slamming "Bullet For Adolf," which premiered Wednesday night off Broadway, for its aimlessness, crudeness, and over at the New York Times -- it's loudness, a complaint so rare it almost makes that flaw seem charming.
The play uses two apparently obvious stand-ins for Harrelson (played with accented accuracy by Brandon Coffey) and Hyman (Tyler Jacob Rollins) to tell a story loosely based on the duo's carefree days working construction in Houston in the early eighties, before Harrelson's fame and Hyman's descent into the prison system cut the two off for decades. If there's anything praiseworthy about the script, it's the unprecious stoner humor, say the critics, who frame that element as a metaphor for the production's overall genial pointlessness (to which we say: welcome to the appeal of Woody Harrelson!).
Then there's the meandering storyline about a gun with possible associations to Hitler, hence the title, which has triggered an aggressive return of the film-school term "shaggy-dog plot," always near a pejorative. E.g.: "a shaggy-dog story that's as long-winded as it is light on laughs," "recommend you not try to make sense of the central shaggy-dog plot." So take note, would-be playwrights: worst shaggy dog plot ever.
But enough showing, let's tell. We've rounded up the pithiest lines of the pans so far. Take a look below, and let us know in the comments if you saw "Bullet" and beg to differ.
"Mr. Harrelson’s voice can be heard in a recorded preshow admonition asking the audience to turn off cellphones and to refrain from unwrapping food. Of course you should abide by these rules. But unless your cellphone’s ring tone has the force of an airplane breaking the sound barrier, it’s unlikely to be disruptive."
"Woody Harrelson's Off Broadway play 'Bullet for Adolf'...has quite a bit in common with a pot-addled jaw session: You'll laugh way more than you were expecting, everything meanders rather pleasantly, but by the end you won't really remember much of it at all."
"Even with the cast’s fine efforts, by the time this wobbly 'Bullet' reaches a conclusion you’re at the Who Cares and Why Bother point."
"Scenic designer Dane Laffrey's set isn't built to endure all of the door slamming involved in the production. The walls continually shake, reminding us of the flimsiness of their construction -- which perhaps unintentionally mirrors the flimsiness of the show's plot."
"While it’s nice that the playwrights have fond memories of their youth, there’s more to crafting a farce than simply having eccentric characters yelling often profane, racially charged one-liners at each other...There’s a lot of pot smoking going on among the characters — another aspect reflecting one of Harrelson’s well-known interests -- but since the marijuana isn’t real the audience is unfortunately prevented from experiencing the sort of contact high that might have resulted in at least a few giggles."