Directed by Eric Hoff
Original Music by Dan Lipton
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited
An important piece of theater aptly entitled “Hit the Wall” is consuming the small stage at The Barrow Street Theater in New York City’s West Village. Ike Holter’s new play examines the incidents which occurred at the birth of the gay movement at the nearby Stonewall Inn where riots erupted on the night of Judy Garland’s funeral on June 26th 1969 and where police raided that ever so popular watering hole frequented by the diverse and in control gay community residing in Greenwich Village. This is an historical event which introduced the open protests of gay Americans to achieve equal rights as upstanding citizens of the United States. However, there is not simply one bona fide account of the actual event but many conflicting reports depending on where and when participants and bystanders witnessed the conflict.
Rather than attempting to be an historical drama, “Hit the Wall” takes theatrical liberties necessary to present this evolution as an entertaining and informative piece of theater that easily appeals to an all inclusive audience without ever diminishing the severity or importance of that event. As a literary work, it might at times falter with weak dialogue and stereotypical characters, but then again this might have been the time when these certain types were introduced and established the mainstream society. Borrowing appearances and language from different eras might also be a liberty taken in an attempt to reach a broader audience, even though these might not be historically accurate.
This 90 minute drama is filled with inexhaustible energy and the undivided commitment of a devoted ensemble cast. They electrify the multi level, multi faceted stage with profound, intricate and brutal choreography accompanied by live heart pounding music reminiscent of the popular hard rock from the era. These actors encompass your being, infiltrate your mind and transport you to their time and place, so you become part of the action, you are there. All are superb but Nathan Lee Graham who inhabits Carson the transvestite as she mourns Judy’s death, transcends beauty, courage and rage to portray the persecuted everyman with pride, grace, humility and intelligence. Also of mention is Rania Salem Manganaro who manages to give the lonely lesbian Peg a brave soul as she reveals pain that captures the senses of the audience as she stands her ground. It is certain that these performances could not occur without the incredible support of the entire cast.
“Hit the Wall” is a drama that needs to be seen if only to remind us that the struggle and challenge continues in order to achieve equal rights for the gay community. For an older generation it might rekindle a memory and for the younger audience the play will teach the bravery of the forefathers of this endeavor and the importance of respect and dignity. Throughout the play we here the mantras “I was there” and “The reports of what happened next are not exactly clear.” How appropriate. This reviewer feels all who are still struggling “were there” and “are here.” What happens next is certainly not exactly clear, but we are hopeful. Spend some time to experience a powerful, exciting and enlightening theatrical event.