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|A CurtainUp Review
who are not brothers
By Brad Bradley
This play concerns two men who, according to the press release, are "coping with ordinary circumstances". The author addresses "the delicate balancing act of living day-to-day while searching for answers - both practical and philosophical." I don't think I'm revealing too much to say that they are brothers-in-law, each having married the sister of the other's wife, both having established their families in the women's home community. Also, each of them recently has suffered shocking and simultaneous loss and pain. Until the details of that information is revealed, the play is left substantially in the abstract.
The playwright's employment of the abstract in the beginning of this otherwise extremely interesting work presents a serious stylistic problem. For more than half an hour, the two men seem to be just missing having a genuine conversation, as if each is so caught up in his own perspective that he cannot possibly relax enough to have a real interaction with the other. At times their oblique behaviors suggest the verbal gropings of Beckett's Vladimir and Estragon, yet set in "a small Georgia coastal city" in contemporary America. Thankfully, in the closing moments of Act I, playwright Paul Rawlings gives us an emotional release, and with it the long-awaited revelation of considerable useful expository information, most of which previously had to be puzzled at by the audience.
Even as Dix and Jack, the only two human characters seen or heard (a dog's barking does become significant), have their curious attempts at conversation in Dix's nice but nearly barren older suburban home (he, as the owner and lone current resident, apparently is preparing to move on), actors Joe Thompson and John Jimerson remain compelling and provocative throughout this lean drama. For most of Act I, one of them seems perpetually on edge, and the other perhaps cloyingly pollyannish, although these qualities ultimately become credible when Rawlings gets around to spilling some essential information.
Truisms are spoken of, and some might apply meaningfully to the play itself. Jack's comment, "I am sorry if I am a burden, but family are like that" is a case in point.
The core conflict between the two men contrasts one as a person of considerable faith to another who has no use for such things. Early on, their perspectives feel balanced, recalling a Shavian dramatic approach, and certainly welcome in this highly polarized election season. Ultimately, however, the drama is notably weighted in favor of the believer and the apparent argument of the play seems to have been for naught.
Director Sue Lawless has assembled a fluid and adroit production, although the silences of the scene changes feel deadeningly antediluvian. Subtle musical interludes would have been an asset.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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