Danny Bryck’s ideological sympathy with the political aims of the Occupy Boston movement is crystal clear in “No Room for Wishing,’’ his ambitious new solo show.
NO ROOM FOR WISHING
But it is Bryck’s simple human empathy with the complicated array of people whose stories he painstakingly gathered last year at the Dewey Square encampment, not his depiction of their protests against economic inequality, that is the strongest aspect of this “documentary play,’’ now at Company One under the direction of Megan Sandberg-Zakian.
Adroitly channeling dozens of characters, some of them troubled and desperate, Bryck builds a group portrait that dramatizes the suddenness with which lives can be capsized in an economic downturn. “No Room for Wishing’’ is rife with reminders that the line between employment and unemployment, financial solvency and insolvency, family stability and instability, is unsettlingly thin.
It’s a frequently absorbing if periodically sluggish piece of work by Bryck, a boyish 25-year-old who has largely played supporting roles in productions at local theaters. The behind-the-headlines concept is smart, and the amount of sheer reporting is impressive: Bryck interviewed nearly 200 people during the occupation at Dewey Square last year, and boiled it down to more than two dozen characters.
Sept. 30 will mark the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Boston protest, which lasted 72 days before police broke up the camp — an episode that provides a dramatic climax to “No Room for Wishing.’’
One of the first to speak in “Wishing’’ is a combat veteran called Doc, and he frames the big picture in terms that are hard to refute. “I just see a huge divide between who controls most of the wealth and everything and those who are putting in the legwork,’’ he says. Noting that he comes from a family of paramedics, police officers, and firefighters, Doc adds: “And it’s like, do they, are they rich? No. They’re surviving. You know what I mean? And it’s like they shouldn’t have to just survive. I think it should just be balanced proportionately.’’
Doc is at the encampment because volunteers with medical training were needed, but, he says, “It’s medicine for me, too.’’
Not everyone in “No Room for Wishing’’ is as eloquent or down-to-earth. If Bryck’s presentation of raw, lived-and-told experience is a strength of “Wishing,’’ it is also the show’s weakness. You can’t punch up the dialogue when your script is drawn verbatim from interviews, as Bryck’s is. Just before the show begins, Bryck writes on a sheet of white paper taped to a wall: “This play is made up entirely of the exact words of people involved w/& affected by Occupy Boston. Although text has been cut or rearranged, nothing has been added or reworded.’’
“Wishing’’ would benefit from more cutting and rearranging to establish a clearer narrative line and to reduce the airtime allotted to a few tedious windbags. There are patches when the show gets bogged down in obscure, bureaucratic disputes over details of camp process. To an extent, this is a weakness endemic to documentary theater, which, after all, aims to depict people and events in their fullness, including the boring bits.
But Bryck has captured an authentic slice of Boston history through the voices of those who made it happen. The idealism behind the movement is evident in “Wishing,’’ but he doesn’t gloss over the foibles of some of those involved and the way nerves got frayed as the days went on and cold, fatigue, and personality conflicts took their toll. The show reflects the internal disputes over the presence of homeless people and drug users in the camp.
Bryck’s gallery includes some memorable characters, such as a fast-talking anarchist called Mufasa, who is disdainful of college-age rioters he’s seen at previous protests. “You don’t smash windows and mom-and-pops and go to Starbucks,” he says. “Like, if you’re gonna do wrong, do wrong right.’’ Mufasa cheerfully gives his view of marketing the Occupy movement: “It’s anarchy, but we’re selling it as ‘horizontal democracy’ for the liberals.’’ One of those liberals is heard in the person of Mark, who stresses that while he’s troubled by the blind pursuit of profit, and he supports the general principles of Occupy Boston, he does not think bankers are evil, and he does not intend to join any “socialist uprising’’ that would forfeit public support. “Um, stay moderate, please God,’’ Mark says with a chuckle.
The voice I may remember longest from “Wishing’’ belongs to a 58-year-old organizer from Roxbury named Angela. She illustrates the sense of community and hope many people in precarious circumstances found at Occupy Boston, and in the national Occupy movement.
Angela has seen more than her share of hardship: She’s raising a son with special needs, she recently had thyroid cancer, her mother died, her own house was foreclosed, she experienced what she calls “a little nervous breakdown.’’ But when she headed out the door on this night, she says, her son told her: “I’m proud of you, Mama.’’ By being a part of Occupy Boston, Angela says, “I have finally got life back in me again.’’ Then she adds: “It’s not over. I totally believe it’s not over.”