An essay more than a play, with players as opposed to characters, How to Load a Musket is a racist diatribe that fails to make its points coherently. The costumes and appointments on the walls of a black box space say all that there is to say in a play that ultimately leaves one wanting for more. The scenic design by Lawrence E. Moten III is the show’s best asset.
The actors come out, one at a time, and make their statements, but they never amount to anything resembling a play. They are rather as abstract and abstruse as the play’s lack of drama.
Though Adam Chanler-Berat gives an at times animated performance and Richard Topol is earnest as Jeffrey, there’s less to say about the rest of the eight-member cast, including Carolyn Braver, David J. Cook, Ryan Spahn, Andy Taylor, Lucy Taylor, and Nicole Villamil. Even more confusing is that seven of the cast members play numerous characters, which are rarely clarified.
Based on interviews playwright Talene Monahon began in 2015, How to Load a Musket ostensibly “weaves together verbatim conversations with Revolutionary and Civil War reenactors.” But it ultimately proves less woven than incoherent. Director Jaki Bradley has done too little to clarify the playwright’s intensions.
The colorful costumes by Olivia Vaughn Hern combine period with contemporary clothing, and Stacey Derosier’s lighting design is, in a word, efficient.
How to Load a Musket (January 11-26, 2020)
Less Than Rent Theatre
59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street in Manhattan
For tickets, call 646-892-7999 or visit http://www.59e59.org
Running time: one hour and 25 minutes without an intermission