HOUSTON -- "Henry 'Author' Wiggen is a great opportunity to connect with an audience," proclaimed local actor Lynn Miller, Jr., about the narrator of Bang the Drum Slowly. "He functions like the Stage Manager in Our Town, delivering a lot of monologues straight to the audience as well as interacting with the characters in the play."
Eric Simonson's stage adaptation of the Mark Harris novel and the 1973 movie (which starred a young Robert DeNiro and Michael Moriarty) receives its Southwest premiere at Theater LaB in Houston Feb. 25 - March 29. Set against America's pastime, baseball, the poignant locker room drama is an elegy to the friendship that burgeons between two very different men united in athletic victory and fatal defeat.
To Miller, the value in the play is its concern with fraternity. "Drama is usually about death, love, intensity of emotion. Very few concern friendship like this one ultimately does. When I was young, I didn't really value friendship; as I get older, I'm beginning to put it above all else.
"I don't see the play as a sentimental piece." Rather, it shimmers with feeling.
Because Author recounts his experiences to the audience, the character must go through a learning curve. "I'm still figuring this out. I think I'll be working on that until closing night and beyond. Both what it is and how to convey it." But if Miller had to pinpoint Author's accrued insight, "it'd be how to be more humane," more expansive toward others. "I mean, there's a lot of spitting, cursing, and scratching of the ass. These guys are slobs. They're forced to take care of their terminal teammate. None of them would ever admit to affection. It's a male play." Bang the Drum Slowly runs Feb. 25 - March 29 at Theater LaB in Houston. For tickets, $18, call (713) 868-7516
-- By Peter Szatmary