Live radio play ‘Pang!’ explores poignant struggles of American families

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Review by Deborah Klugman

A beautifully designed radio play staged before a live audience, Pang! relays the stories of three American families who struggle each day with stresses brought on by poverty and want.

Performed by three versatile actors — Christopher Rivas, Donna Simone Johnson and Natalie Camunas, plus director/musician Dan Froot on sax and musician/composer Robert Een on cello and piano — it’s an eloquent aural narrative that depicts the harsh consequences of economic inequality on vulnerable individuals.

Froot and his ensemble developed the script through interviews with people in Los Angeles, Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Miami. The story closest to home involves an L.A. family swindled out of the home they’ve owned for three generations by a man pretending to be their friend.

A second narrative from Cedar Rapids concerns a Burundian immigrant who, as a youth, made a daring escape from a genocidal militia that wiped out his parents and siblings. But life in the U.S. isn’t rosy: it’s rather more one of struggle, with his wife now ill and he himself working long hours to keep food on the table.

The final captivating tale from Miami tells of sweet tempered 7-year-old Terrence whose playmate is struck by a ricocheting bullet and dies. Terrence’s worried working class parents do their best to shield their son from the loss — yet a few days later the boy himself barely dodges death when a car rolls up on the sidewalk, inches from where he’s standing.

Most stage plays involve visuals and movement. Pang! atypically relies on a fusion of storytelling, music and sound effects to get its message across, and accomplishes that aim so adroitly that the absence of spectacle goes unremarked. The actors, singly and in tandem, shift flawlessly between characters, while the musical accompaniment underscores the play’s poignant theme about going without in America.

“Pang!” played at 24th Street Theatre located at 1117 W. 24th St. in Los Angeles. The show is now closed. Visit Tinyurl.com/pang-info for more.

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