No Room for Wishing
Danny Bryck portrays no fewer than 30 distinct characters in his one-man show recounting how a disparate group of people came together in 2011 to occupy Boston's Dewey Square. In order to tell the story, Bryck, who also wrote the script, relies on the actual words of the people who were there. He draws his material from interviews and public statements. Some of the dialogue is rambling diatribe; some is airily naïve; some is astute, educated, and well-spoken. Underneath all of these points of view is a singular message that things cannot... or at least, should not... go on as they have been.
In a sort of prologue, Bryck tapes up sheets of paper and scrawls a précis of the events that led up to the creation of the Occupy movement, which started on Wall Street, and how protests coalesced in cities around the nation.
"On Sept 30, Occupy Boston set up camp in Dewey Square, in the Financial District opposite the Federal Reserve," one paragraph recounts. Bryck was there to witness it, and to speak to those who pitched their tents and spoke their minds. Now he's at the Boston Center for the Arts to deliver a more nuanced and comprehensive account than the one offered at the time by the mainstream news media.
"No Room for Wishing" takes its name from a line in a song performed by one of the characters as she sits with others in a sharing circle, just before Boston’s police break up the assembly. Bryck’s play documents the protest from its early days right to its chaotic finish. Fluidly and effortlessly, Bryck transitions from one character to another in a dazzling display of his talents: From teenage girls to cantankerous elderly men, from rapsters to dreamers to flustered public officials, the actor channels a variety of authentic experience; he’s a marvel to behold.
The fragments and figments of monologue feel like shards snatched from a tumult, and they too represent a wide cross-section that’s far more comprehensive than the media reports that suggested the movement was dominated by anarchists and troublemakers. "The most radical thing I’ve seen here was just this woman holding a sign that said, ’I Care About You,’ " one of Bryck’s channeled characters, "Ali," notes.
A homeless woman named "Cherie" is an eloquent advocate for the homeless. "Doc" is a former Navy medic. "Brian" is homeless, also, but well versed in the politics and issues of the day: "You want a platform?" he asks. "American Spring!" Then: "The Earth cannot afford America any more."
"Regan," clutching a red Solo cup, recounts a life of hardship and sheer survival. A former prostitute, Regan is also an RN and a CPA, but its her street skills that have served her most reliable: "I was suckin’ dick, right down to the nitty gritty," she recounts.
The movement also drew sympathizers from the mainstream, uneasy as they might have been. "Mark" sums up this ambivalence, saying, "With any fringe--I don’t care what it is--I don’t want to stand next to you."
One of the most memorable Occupiers in Bryck’s repertoire is "Mufasa," there with a group of friends after stealing a car belonging to one of their mothers. The young man enters into a verbal jig that’s so energetic and entertaining that he could have been the focus of his own one-man show. Wielding a plastic water bottle, Mufasa parses levels and degrees of ethical conduct: "If you’re gonna do wrong, do wrong right," he urges, like a latter-day Thoreau laying out the framework for successful civil disobedience.
Eventually, the initial energy that brought so many disparate people together begins to evaporate and the inevitable tensions and fault lines emerge. "Stephen," disillusioned with how the leaderless group seems to be lapsing into hierarchy, mutters angrily about how "they’re kicking people out" of Dewey Square--not the cops, but the Occupiers themselves. Pressures mount from the outside, as well, as city officials attempt to deny the Occupiers winter tents and eventually seek to clear out Dewey Square and end the protest in the name of the permitting process.
When it comes down to it, even the group’s decision to peacefully disband (after one last dance party) turns into a farrago, as police swarm Dewey Square to break up the revelry. Bryck single-handedly paints a portrait of riot and confusion: "Thank you!" he screams to the cops; "Thank you for protecting and serving the shit out of me!"
What has become of Occupy? Recently, protestors took to the streets once again to celebrate the movement’s one-year anniversary. Little has changed in the interim: The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, politicians make empty promises and make excuses ("Corporations are people, too!"). But whether the movement has become a footnote or remains a force to be reckoned with remains an open question.
For the panoply of protesters in Bryck’s one-man show, however, there’s little doubt. "This is the end," one fellow declares, "of chapter one."
"No Room for Wishing," a co-production of Central Square Theater and Company One, continues through September 22 at the Boston Center for the Arts and then runs September 30 - October 9 at Central Square Theater, Cambridge. For tickets and more information, please visit http://companyone.org/Season14/No_Room_for_Wishing/synopsis.shtml