The opening tableau in Adam Rapp’s Bingo With the Indians promises a heist drama. In a dreary roadside motel room, one denizen dons a ski mask, another cleans a gun. A robbery is indeed afoot, but only to support a bigger scheme: theater. Arts grants being what they are these days, the crew has journeyed from the East Village to the New Hampshire hometown of their director, to raise funds from the cash box at the local bingo game. Meanwhile, Steve, a stagestruck townie who stumbles into this den of thesps, begs to join up, only to be manipulated and abused—or, perhaps, challenged and enlightened?—well beyond usual “audience participation.”
Steve isn’t the only one fucked with in this twisted downtown-meets–small town fable. The onslaught of head games and other bodily functions might overwhelm you, but behind all the full-frontal sex acts and frenzies of fecophilia lies an almost quaint meditation on “the magic of theater,” as one conspirator waxes. While Bingo‘s milieu may be familiar and the characters roughly drawn, Rapp adds meta-theatrical richness, depicting playacting as a cult, replete with rituals of initiation and bloodletting. The “tribal” symbolism gets a bit forced and clichéd with the appearance of a local Abenaki Indian. But even here Rapp’s boldness as a director impresses, as do the eccentric yet assured performances he elicits from the Flea Theater’s young “Bats” company—especially Cooper Daniels, Jessica Pohly, and Rob Yang as the criminally pretentious theatrical trio.