Graham Baker, Kennedy Kanagawa, Cody Robinson, David Gow, and Misha Osherovich Photo by Daniel Davila
“We live in a world that’s not easily woken up. We’re so used to shoving that part of our imagination down that most new atrocities just get plunged into the cellar. Child abuse? Heard it, terrible but down you go. Rape? That old chestnut, down, down, down. It’s human. We have to let these things drift away in our mind because if we had them upfront all the time we’d kill ourselves,” laments David (Cody Robinson).
“Decky Does a Bronco” by Scottish playwright Douglas Maxwell is wonderfully acted with a prolific message. This is a must-see show.
The show is set in 1983 in a swing park in Girvan, Scotland. Five nine-year old playmates bond over rough housing, tag, and just boys being boys. The action occurs after the five enter singing an a cappella song in perfect harmony shedding their adulthood to become the children they were. “Decky Does a Bronco” is a play in which David attempts to accurately portray a true account of his childhood memories of the events of that summer. David is telling the story because they “don’t talk about [it].”
David’s cousin, Barry (Kennedy Kanagawa), stays with his grandmother during the summer and is trying to break his record for riding his bike to the park. Dressed in a sweater and a tie, he is the nerd of the group and needs to leave at 5:00, as to not be late for tea. O’Neil (Graham Baker) is the popular kid who is both tougher and poorer than the others. Chrissy (David Gow) and Decky (Misha Osherovich) are “besties”, who are constantly at each other’s throats.
The five’s biggest thrill is to bronco. To bronco, one stands up on the seat for a swing, swings as high as he can, and then jumps. The goal is for the swing to over the top and wrap around the whole swing set. Four of the boys have done the deed, except Decky (Misha Osherovich), the youngest and smallest of the group. Decky is a klutz and longs to join the clan to prove his worth.
One faithful day, David and Chrissy tease Decky, taunting him to do the bronco. Decky tries, but can not muster the courage. He runs aways stating “you will never see me again.” Sadly those words become true.
At first, the boys think the bullying has led to Decky running away, but that is not the case. As the boys learn Decky’s fate, they have to deal with their own emotional responses. As innocence is lost and scars are embedded, these boys will never be the same.
All these actors embodied the spirit of their characters and they did it with perfect Scottish accents, thanks to dialect coaching by Jerzy Gwiazdowski. Mr. Robinson has a challenging role that requires him to switch back and forth from an adult to a child, all accomplished with a natural fluidity. Each of these actors’ childish mannerisms and boyish behavior are engaging. When their world is turned upside down, we see the effects of guilt and the mechanisms of survival kick in for each of them. This is an impressive example of an ensemble cast.
Ethan Nienaber’s direction and choreography is well thought out, leaving us to go on this rollercoaster ride with just the right emotional range. I recommend not to miss the play, but it would be remiss of me not to warn you to bring your Kleenex. Nienaber adds stylized and slow-motion movement to let us see that these are memories, segments in time that are forever lost to the past, yet forever present in their minds.
Diggle’s simple yet effective set, Aidan Marshall’s haunting lighting, Susanne Houstle’s thoughtful costumes, and the brilliant harmonized a cappella opening and closing segments beginning all play a role in tying together this poignant show.
“Decky Does a Bronco” is a truly satisfying theatrical experience that I sincerely hope is honored come award season. This is a play everyone should see, as it touches the heart while making powerful statements about shared life experiences. Be one of the clan for a night at “Decky Does a Bronco”.
Decky Does a Bronco: Royal Family Performing Arts Space, 145 West 46th St. through Sept. 21st.