It's a wind-wind production!
A character in the delightful premiere of Brotherly Loves proclaims that he is in a "no wind" situation when he appears to have no way out of a particularly vexing dilemma. Of course, he means "no-win." (And I of course mean "win-win.") A reasoning Mrs. Malaprop-for-the-'90s, he explains that the phrase comes from the fact that a sailboat without wind can't go anywhere. It's stuck. Thus "no wind" means that he is in a situation that he can't get out of.
This inaugural production of Animated Theaterworks had plenty of winds for its sails. With the poignant and moving new script firmly navigating, this new play, by the extraordinarily gifted writing team of Kyaw Tha Hla and Jeff Clinkenbeard, is a product of this new theatre company's InterActive Play Development Program, which strives to include the audience in the playwriting process. Whatever the process, the final outcome in this instance was worth seeing.
As the lights come up, mom and dad are preparing to march in their little Missouri town's first Gay Pride parade with their son and his lover. But a surprise visit by their homophobic son and his latest girlfriend throws the weekend into complete disarray. Everyone has secrets, and they use them to raise the stakes every step along the way. The comedy rarely flags, and reconciliation ultimately triumphs. And in classic dramatic structure, everything is neatly and convincingly tied up, just as you like it.
The cast did the play justice. Jeanne L. Austin as Louise Betterman, the mother of the warring sons, was a case study in grave concern. Dave Dwyer as Ron Betterman was the lovable father next door. Jezabel Montero as Crystal was lovely and touching as a girl trying to shake off her trailer-trash past. Jeff Clinkenbeard displayed his stand-up comic roots in his funny portrayal of Simon Betterman. Nick Bosco as the frequently half-naked, buff, gay boyfriend, was sweet and lively. Standout characterizations sprang from Tom Morrissey (Hiram Heiden) and Patricia Naggiar (Carolyn Heiden) as the eccentric grandparents. And a startlingly effective and moving performance by Duncan M. Rogers persuasively converted the bigoted brother, Kendall Betterman, from an Archie Bunker clone to a marching member of the Gay Pride parade.
The set, by Leo Modrcin, was a neutral biege, which reflected the cliché blandness of the midwestern plains, but missed revealing any of the quirkiness of this dysfunctional family. The uncredited costumes were likewise serviceable but uninspired. The jazzy lighting by Paul J. Martini added some of the panache that the physical aspects of the show were lacking.
Elysabeth Kleinhans, as the play's director, kept the production vibrant. As president of the promising Animated Theaterworks, she has an auspicious future.
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Copyright 1999 James A. Lopata