Bang! Pajama Party Story Slam!
by Tony Bartolone
The genius of Lizzie Czerner’s Bang Theatre is the ability to take everything great about hanging out with friends – the warmth, the fun, the excitement, the familial love – to take all that stuff and translate into live entertainment. Shows at Bang never feel like “shows.” Instead, their programming feels like a kickback or a party or a friendly get-together. It is punk rock theatre. They are not concerned with “production value” as much as the raw energy and primal response from a crowd.
So it was rather fitting that their most recent story slam was performed under the guise of a pajama party. Brought to life by Don’t Tell My Mother creators, Nikki Levy and Lizzie Czerner, it was remarkable how informal the whole thing was (that’s a good thing, by the way). The problem with theatre is the reverence with which it is treated. Is not a man singing on the side of the street just as much theatre as a bloated, big budget production of Chicago? The only way theatre can exist as art is if it is available to all stages of society. Bang’s loose, anti-theatre is exactly what keeps art alive in the times of economic peril.
With subject matter ranging from growing up to ghosts to a hot, young guy at Trader Joe’s, the Pajama Party Story Slam truly achieved the feeling of an adolescent sleepover (And there were cookies!). The party started with creators, Lizzie and Levy reminiscing, and smoothly transitioned into a more traditional story-telling format, never losing the casual attitude that sets Bang apart from other theaters.
Barbara Cole shared her mid-life temptations of which anybody who has ever had a long-term relationship could connect with. As Vanessa Marshall immersed the audience in an England haunted house, the lights begun to flicker suggesting we were not alone. And the effusive Scout Durwood closed out the night with her summer stories of growing up and growing apart from friends. Although Scout’s story was intrinsically feminine in subject matter, I found myself deeply identifying with the overall emotion and themes woven in her well-told, personal account. It begs the question: Is loss of innocence something that happens suddenly, forcibly? Or is there some sort of gradual, natural progression to becoming an adult? All we really have to draw from is our own story and the stories shared by friends.
Ultimately, the PJ Story Slam succeeded in casually concealing the “work” (which is a mark of strong comedy) to give us an unpretentious evening of interest and fun. There is not a single thing more an audience can ask for.