Rock Wilk's Broke Wide Open at 45th Street Theatre
Monodrama Brings You Home
By: Susan Hall - Oct 14, 2012
Broke Wide Open
Written and composed by Rock Wilk
Directed by Stephen Bishop Seely
Music Direction Rock Wilk
Artist Design/ Canvas creators Jason Sisino and Lee Alston
Lighting Design Omayra Garriga Casiano
Stage Manager Nivia Marrero Rolon
The 45th Street Theater
New York, New York
Thru December 15, 2013
Rock Wilk is mesmerizing in his monodrama “Broke Wide Open.” The image of his arm pumped up in a power gesture immediately gives hope to a bleak beginning. Wilk was turned over by his birth mother to be passed from foster home to foster home, and finally settled in a wonderful Jewish family, where he was treasured.
Love or no love, he grapples with identity as he tries to find home. Who was his mother? He finds it difficult to cast himself as a Jew when he enters college on a football scholarship, not a match for the usual Jewish profile.
A sense of discomfort emanates from Wilk. Yet, as he exuberantly attacks his story, Wilk has a magical ability to switch emotional registers. The piece is never predictable. In lifelike sprawl and choppiness, Wilk often seems on the verge of breaking down, but soldiers forward.
His technique of time travel gives us the rich characters fundamental to his life. Wilk seamlessly moves from his voice to that of his adoptive grandmother, mother and father, all near the end of life. You feel Wilk’s confusion and the loving emanations of the family that chose him. Only the wife who lived with him for seven years in the country, where his adoptive mother died, does not emerge, perhaps because she has not yet been anchored by Wilk.
Wilk proceeds like a tornado, and uses the sole stage prop, a metal double decker bed on wheels, to twirl outside the way he feels inside. The stylistic aggression matches a wonderfully healthy, but driven, search. Stephen Bishop Seely directs to help keep us riveted throughout the evening.
The stage backdrop contains portraits of the rainbow of characters from Wilk’s life. A spurting fire hydrant gushes down the backdrop like Roy Lichtenstein’s Mural with a Blue Brushstroke. The image is strongest and suggests a life flowing bountifully.
In each moment Wilk intrigues, creating an intimate picture of need and searching. Wilk uses language like a composer uses notes. It is not surprising to find that he is a musician. He said in a post-performance conversation that he regards this work as a ‘symphony’, divided into movements within which themes and subjects are repeated and rewoven. Textures, gestures, and verbal styles switch from moment to moment, but all are apt for the character Wilk is inhabiting, and those he is revealing.
While Wilk considers himself a stranger, his journey is not strange at all. We live in a country of deep loneliness. The world outside often seems chaotic and unrelenting. At the heart of the matter Wilk frantically fights disconnection.
Care taken for each detail bespeaks a passion for the theatrical form. He does not elicit sympathy, but rather astonishment, urgency, and precision.
Is there a revelation? The possibility lurks throughout the play, which ends with a hopeful question mark. Wilk’s heart is not in a desert, but engorged in a rich pool of lives who have pulled together to provide his foundation in the present moment.
Wilk says, “This story started as ‘all about me,’ but is really ‘all about us.’ This fabulous actor will convince you.