Life can be pretty tough and The Bullpen depicts that incredibly well. Director Richard Hoeler and writer/performer Joe Assadorian team together to create a masterful and hilarious off Broadway show. Joe plays 18 different characters in a one man show, the main character being Joe Assadorian. We follow Joe as he navigates through the justice system for the first time in his life and in the process meets other misfits of different age, race, ethnicities, and even gender.
Joe has been arrested and as he is being booked and processed he pleads his innocence to which the officer simply writes it off with the ever famous phrase “Tell it to the judge.” What the crime actually is, is a mystery from the beginning. The officer puts him in a crowded bullpen to which he fervently rejects to but his refusal falls on deaf ears. He spends time with the rest of his fellow prison mates he goes through a trial version of court rulings. Each prisoner plays a different aspect of the ‘trial’. There’s the judge, the jury, the defense, and the prosecutor, even the witness.
The physical stage of where Joe displays his talents is a gray walled and to be honest dull in comparison to an actual Broadway theater. But as Joe transforms from person to person and scene to scene the audience follows him as well. Wherever he goes and whoever he is we can clearly tell. The way they played with the lighting was ingenious. When Joe was put in a bullpen on his own that made the lighting illuminate cell bars. The visual effects and the way they played with the shadows were brilliant.
Whenever Joe changed from character to character his whole personality changed. His body posture would slouch, erect, or even pose as a girl. For example when he acted as the judge he would hunch over a bit, lick his lips, hold his hands out in a pincer like action, and change his voice to a bit raspy and very annoying. When he played the female character, Kitty, he would put his hands on his hips, lean more on one leg, make his voice high pitched, and moves his hands in a pretty girly way. That’s a big jump from a man with a rasp and hunch to a female with a high pitched and very relaxed posture.
Through all the acting Joe wears only one outfit, his own. He doesn’t even have the need to change because the audience can immediately tell who is who through his posture, voice, and persona. The way Joe showed whether he was in court, the bullpen, or outside was through sound effects. In one scene the guard slams the door shut and overhead they have speakers through which the sound of a closing metal door comes through loud and clear.
From the moment the lights went down and the acting began, I was amused and at the same time mesmerized. I was at the edge of my seat. There was not a second that I was not entertained. The audience was filled with laughter, gasps, and even a little cursing. Joe didn’t even break stride as he transformed from one character to the next. In less than a second he was able to change his voice, his body posture, his words, and his whole persona to someone who in no way was related to the personality before that. I was beyond impressed and had a new appreciation for the art of theater. Joe doing this play in front of a live audience where there’s always a possibility to lose track and break character, had enough confidence and experience to do perfect. Even when he went off stage to drink water it seemed completely natural and part of the show. Hats off to Mr. Assadourian and his incredible acting skills.