Off-Broadway Review: “Bergen” at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival at the 14th Street Y Theatre

Off-Broadway Review: “Bergen” at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival at the 14th Street Y Theatre (Closed Monday August 13, 2018)
Written by Steven Fechter
Directed by Kathy Gail MacGowan
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

There is a bleak, doleful new play entitled “Bergen” that is being presented as part of The Broadway Bound Festival at the 14th Street Y. More a play with songs than a musical, “Bergen” is set in the near future in Norway where a motley group of mediocre rock musicians try to decide what to name their band. They set midnight as the deadline and the only criterion is that the name chosen reflects the collapse of America. Playwright Steven Fechter falls short of the dark side of comedy when the ongoing joke, a plethora of cynical names, wears thin after several outbursts of suggestions as the night of debauchery evolves. The predictable plot is driven by situation and circumstance. The only possible irony to be found is that this bunch of losers want to name their band after the cause of a dystopian America.

There is a surfeit of depressing information spouted by each of the characters about their past which supports their mood and state of mind but little emotion to elicit the present pain and struggle. A lot is said but nothing happens. Enter a new female lead singer who drops in to audition or possibly save the day. It appears the best she can do is ignite the hormones of each band member that results in triggering sexual fantasies, which are as arbitrarily displayed as the songs which are randomly performed by each character. Neither move the plot forward. She obviously knows something the band doesn’t as she flees to the horrid debacle of America to save herself. Of course, before she left the gang came up with the name “American Disease” so the only thing left to do is hire the waitress in the café to be their new female lead singer.

The major problem with the structure of the play is there is no focus. It is difficult to understand what it is about. It is too broad a statement to say the entire world is in trouble for whatever reason. Questions are not answered, dreams are not fulfilled, and life continues to pass the characters by as they only choose to exist within their fantasies. There are too many inner conflicts that are never resolved but merely pile up on top of each other until they topple and are then swept away. The melancholy pulse of the production deflates the dramatic arc and consumes any hope of change or survival, merely encouraging the self-absorbed characters. This makes it difficult to like or care about any of them. Perhaps there is a message buried somewhere within the work, but it is lost in translation.