Reporters of all stripes have weighed in on the Occupy movement, but how would an artist portray such a fascinating part of America’s recent past? For playwright and actor Danny Bryck, the answer is a one-man “docuplay” called “No Room for Wishing”—directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian and playing at the Boston Center for the Arts and the Central Square Theater through October 9th. The show is comprised entirely of participant interviews beginning in October of 2011. This ambitious play, stands as one of the first theatrical works to critically examine the Occupy movement. Bryck’s ability to seamlessly move between so many different characters and perspectives allows him to successfully capture in an hour and a half the confusion and energy of the entire Occupy movement.
Throughout the play, Bryck impersonates the people he interviewed; all the characters in the show are directly based off of people he met at the protests last year. They include a young college anarchist, a weary war veteran, and a middle-aged former prostitute with three children. He puts on accents—from sweet southern to quick clipped Bostonian—and alters his body language to represent the rapid switches in character. The set is comprised of simple wooden boxes that Bryck occasionally rearranges to indicate passage of time or changes in location. It’s a flurry of movement, conversations, and viewpoints, much like the atmosphere of the Occupy movement at its genesis.
Bryck’s performance is so varied that it seems as if one man on stage is actually 30 or 40 different people. Each character’s mannerisms are unique; it is almost as if Bryck becomes a puppet through which all of the voices of Occupy are channeled. In one moment Bryck casts doubt on the actions of the Occupy protestors—“you don’t smash windows and then go to Starbucks,” said one character named Mufasa—and in the next makes an impassioned plea in support of the movement.
The surprising variety of opinions and people in the play was perhaps the most successful aspect of the performance. An event that for many people was just an annoying presence in a public space or local interest piece on the evening news took on a human element that shed light on the personal struggles of the protestors. There were aimless anarchists, recently homeless lawyers, an older man who believed people “shouldn’t have to just survive,” and even a woman for whom the protests presented an opportunity to engage with a new, meaningful community. The general arch of the plot followed the movement from Occupy Boston’s inception through to the end of the Dewey Square encampment, but the focus of the show was the humanity of the protesters at every stage of the protest’s development. The characters felt real because of Bryck’s meticulous study of the mannerisms of his real life inspirations.
Dennis, one of the few characters featured more than once, spoke from a documentarian point of view when he told the audience, “We need to ask, ‘Is this a movement about reform, or is this a movement about revolution?’” This question loomed over the rest of the play, and each character forced the audience to ask themselves what the Occupy movement meant to them. Bryck made it clear that for those involved with the movement, the goals and ideals didn’t just dissapear even after the outdoor encampment in Dewey Square was disassembled at the end of 2011.
—Staff writer Virginia R. Marshall can be reached at email@example.com.