Theater lovers like myself who love theater because it takes us to a place we can’t get to on our own will love Frank Boyd’s THE HOLLER SESSIONS, in too brief a run at the Ancram Opera House. Frank loves jazz because it takes him to a place he can’t get to on his own. For about 80 minutes, Boyd, who conceived and wrote THE HOLLER SESSIONS, also plays radio host Ray (but I really thought of him as Frank, so I'm calling him that) in the lonely, timeless, graveyard hours of the night, who spins discs of jazz greats - the Bird, the Duke, Louis (pronounced with an S) et al - with a stream-of-conscience rant. For Frank, jazz is both drug to escape from the absurd, injustices of life (listen-up to Frank’s riff on pop rock superstar Justin Timberlake) and spiritual elixir that allows for exuberant physical expression (watch Boyd’s spontaneous body gyrations to Miles Davis).
Boyd cleverly engages the audience from the tiny stage of an expertly-designed , cramped and cluttered, dingy radio studio. Opera House patrons leave cell phones on and call-in Frank on-air. But, beneath the laughs, there’s a fierce, political undercurrent. Jazz isn’t subversive music: it’s the sound of real America. (WTF kind of song is the Star-Spangled Banner anyway?) Frank’s sardonic humor percolates, just shy of boiling, underneath all the “hollering”. His flight fantastic to the sounds of jazz legends is tethered to the mundane of nose-bleed, Jack Daniels, and too much caffeine. Boyd’s irresistibly vulnerable performance concludes with a surprise, on upbeat notes (literally). But in Frank’s journey, joy is tenuous and fleeting. There’s pain written all over Boyd’s face. I for one want to see more theater from him, just based on that.
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