Loud as Life

The Bang and the Clatter Theatre Company has been making a lot of noise lately.

The Akron group has produced a startling seven shows during its first season, while dragging Rubber City theater kicking and screaming into the 21st century with its outrageous and brutal dramas and comedies.

Akron's new The Bang and the Clatter Theatre Company presented the Ohio premiere of David Mamet's "Romance."
Photo Courtesy of The Bang and The Clatter Theatre Company

The company borrowed its name from a phrase in the U2 song “Stay (Faraway, So Close!),” which evokes images of damaged people and helpless situations. It’s a theme that worms its way through each show BNC has produced, from the drug-addled victims of Adam Rapp’s “Blackbird” to Eric Bogosian’s immature yet amusing rant against American awfulness, “Griller.”
Akron Beacon Journal critic Kerry Clawson, an early champion of BNC and its work, finds the productions exciting, if disturbing.

“They linger, they haunt you,” Clawson says. “I saw ‘Blackbird’ twice. As a critic, I never do that.”

Financing the project out of their own pockets — though they have recently achieved nonprofit status — co-artistic directors Sean McConaha and Sean Derry set up shop upstairs in the Summit ArtSpace on East Market Street. The time and effort put into this new performance space, formerly office space vacant for at least a decade, is truly staggering. So are the highly realistic sets they create for each production.

“There is no aesthetic distance,” McConaha says, referring to the intimate nature of the space. “We can’t fake it.”

The group’s inaugural production, Sam Shepard’s “The Late Henry Moss,” featured a real bathtub with running water. They followed with an abstract, revolving set for Patrick Marber’s “Closer,” which included video screens and computer animation for the Internet-chat-room scene. “We want people to come in and not know what to expect,” Derry says.

McConaha and Derry, who have known each other for five years, were part of the recent performance of “Angels In America” at Weathervane Playhouse. McConaha directed the play. Derry was an actor. Both were surprised by the positive reaction this award-winning drama about AIDS in the Reagan era received from local audiences.

“It was a big hit,” McConaha says. “We thought, Well, there’s an audience for edgy theater in Akron.”

Theater companies can thrive with support from local government. Fortunately, BNC has an admirer in Summit County Executive James B. McCarthy, who helped the group secure its digs.
“I love those guys,” McCarthy says. “They deal with the everyday occurrences of life, the stress and the strain. It’s intense, and you have to pay attention.” He laughs, adding, “It’s not like Weathervane.”

It certainly isn’t. As Akron’s home to comfortable and familiar musicals, as well as the classic works of Arthur Miller and William Shakespeare, Weathervane doesn’t have much to fear from this small, upstart company — unless those who normally prefer “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” have a sudden desire to catch Bryony Lavery’s “Frozen” instead, which opens Oct. 13.

A 2004 Tony Award nominee, “Frozen” details the unabated effect of a brutal act of violence on the victim’s mother and on the perpetrator. Such “ripped from the headlines” dramas are commonplace for Cleveland audiences who frequent Dobama, Ensemble or Beck Center.

McConaha and Derry believe that’s the kind of drama young adult audiences want, and that there's a place for it in Akron.

Clawson agrees.

“Young theatergoers are looking for something challenging,” she says. “They’re hungry for it. I’m hungry for it.”

The Bang and the Clatter Theatre Company presents “Frozen” by Bryony Lavery from Oct. 13 to Nov. 12 at Summit ArtSpace, 140 E. Market St., Akron. For tickets and information, call (330) 606-5317 or visit www.bnctheatre.com.


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