Decky Does a Bronco
What could go wrong when five grown men act like children?
By Andrew Andrews
In the summer of 1983, five boys in primary school converged every day on the neighborhood swing set in Girvan, Scotland. Not to swing, but to bronco.
A bronco is when you ride the swing standing up to build momentum, then jump off, as you kick the seat up over the bar that holds the chains. It looks easy, but it’s not. And the youngest of the bunch, named Decky, is the only one too scared to do it.
Douglas Maxwell’s play, which premiered in the year 2000, is regarded as one of the most significant works of early 21st century Scottish theatre. Now, a team headed by David Gow (who also performs as the character Chrissy) brings this tragicomedy to New York, where it’s sure to appeal to anyone reminiscent of the bygone days when life was carefree, until suddenly, it wasn’t.
I suspected I was going to enjoy this performance from the moment I saw the set (by Diggle). It appears to be little more than a swing set and artificial turf, but if you look closely, you notice the complex artistry and craftsmanship that went into its apparently simple elegance. And when the “boys” make their way to the stage, singing Hearts of Olden Glory like a national anthem, one immediately appreciates the effort that went into making this a first class production.
This is not a musical, however, and when the singing stops, the professional chorus of men transform themselves into a scattering of nine year old boys, expertly portraying the attitudes and mannerisms of playing pups, with Scottish accents so thick that I couldn’t make out all of the words. Rather than detracting from the experience, the language heightens the sense of authenticity—and the nose picking, booger eating and melodramatic fantasizing make it easy to forget that you’re watching five grownups simply acting like they’re fifteen years younger.
Most of the performance will have you laughing along with the rest of the audience at the boys’ antics, until Chrissy and narrator David (Cody Robinson) push Decky (Misha Osherovich) a little too far. And then, like an Adele song, the highs turn low and you start squirming in your seat as you deal with the discomfort of what’s happened. It’s a perfect story, perfectly interpreted, and the only thing out of line is the occasionally-errant swing, which every child who’s ever spent time on the playground knows to look out for.
I’m not exaggerating when I say this is already a Broadway-quality production, even better than some performances I’ve seen on the Great White Way. With its 80’s-style, music-backed montages and slo-mo “fight” scenes, Decky Does a Bronco is poetry in motion, comedic one moment and tragic the next.
Andrew Andrews attended Decky Does a Bronco at The Royal Family Performing Arts Space in Manhattan on Tuesday, September 10, 2019 @ 8:00pm to write this review.