REVIEW: Bash (Brikenbrak Theatre Project)

 

Trio of one-acts reveal the possible evil in us all

 

Brikenbrak art gallery - Mill Stream by Joyce Speechley

   
Brikenbrak Theatre Project, i/a/w Gorilla Tango Capital presents
   
Bash
   
Written by Neil Labute
Directed by Paul Cosca
Viaduct Theatre, 3111 N. Western (map)
through October 31  |  tickets: $15  |  more info

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

Deathbed confessions are absolution rites to get to the afterlife. Reality show confessionals are bragging rights to get to the after-show-life. Bash is the telling of deep dark secrets for both release and vanity. Brikenbrak Theatre Project, in association with Gorilla Tango Capital, presents Bash, a trio of one act plays by Neil Labute. Ipigenia in Orem has a businessman pick-up on a woman in a hotel bar. The woman gets screwed when the anticipated hook-up turns into the guy’s walk-of-shame sans the sex. A Gaggle of Saints has a college couple recount different versions of a big party in the city. Despite their privileged and religious upbringing, the students aren’t as pure as the ‘dirty people’ they ignore. Medea Redux has a scorned woman share a revenge plot fourteen years in the making. BASH is the disturbing stories of three-of-a-kind ordinary people, all challenging the definition of humanity. Brikenbrak poster - Bash by Neil Labute Society is taught to believe that there is good in everyone. What if deep, deep down, a person is bad? And unremorseful? And sitting in the next seat on the train? BASH is ‘ataxia,’ the Greek word for ‘world out of balance.’

Master storyteller Neil Labute has written three monologues with authentic dialogue and details. Under the direction of Paul Cosca, the narratives are unsettling interrogations. Cosca stages the audience in a horseshoe around two chairs facing each other. Each theatre patron receives a number on arrival. Three guests will take turns sitting in the judgment seat. (It is not forced participation. When a number is called, silence ensures a ‘pass’ to the next number). Taking a turn opposite the actor, I had the best seat in the house for Ipigenia in Orem. In dual roles, Cosca is also the nervous businessman and I’m the pick-up. The experience is real, intimate and uncomfortable. Throughout his discourse, Cosca keeps suggesting I have another drink from the imaginary mini bar. (I wish I could). Cosca shuffles through smaller stories mixing up timeline. As the listener pieces it all together, Cosca goes from pathetic geek to shrewd businessman… to the umpteenth degree. Cosca is awful…good.

In A Gaggle of Saints, Graham Jenkins (John) and Kirby Brown (Sue) have a duet monologue. From good families and church goers, the perfect couple describes in enthusiastic detail how pretty their relationship looks. Jenkins’ presence personifies big-man-on-campus with a carefree stance. Brown talks ‘mob wife’ with perky willful obtuseness. She wants security and nice things and doesn’t mind a little blood. Jenkins flashes a smile and rage with the same glee. Jenkins suppresses and oppresses hate. Jenkins is bloody…brilliant.

In Medea Redux, April Taylor describes her childhood sweetheart, her teacher. Taylor shares a long-kept secret with fond memories of love that spurred into revenge. Her cadence is matter-of-fact as she describes the innocence of youth and fast forwards to the burden of adult understanding. Taylor’s account of vengeance satisfaction is unemotionally emotional. Taylor is scary…great.

With Labute’s words and Cosca’s direction, the realization of human evilness in non-Hitler types – a guy in a bar, kid in church, gal at KFC – is a deep dark secret revealed. Bash whacks with an intensity that leaves a bruise… permanently!

   
   
Rating: ★★★
 
 

Brikenbrak art gallery - There are Secrets by Layne Jackson Brikenbrak Theatre Project is proud to present an art gallery entitled "Visions of Secrets", to accompany our newest production, Bash, by Neil LaBute.

Twelve artists from all around Chicago have submitted over 40 paintings, sculptures, photographs and installations for the gallery, including Layne Jackson‘s "There are Secrets" (left) and Joyce Speechley‘s "Mill Stream" (top of review).

The twelve artists included in the gallery are Julia Lynn Haw, Layne Jackson, Joseph Budka, Maral Hashemi, Lisa Pantoja, Ricardo Gonzales, Erika Cespedes, Chrissy Scolaro, Chris Helton, Clark Bending, Michelle Korte Leccia, and Joyce Speechley.

 

Running Time: Ninety-five minutes with no interruption

   
   

Continue reading

REVIEW: Alligator (Brikenbrak Theatre Project)

 

Brikenbrak chomps into “Alligator”

 

Alligator Show 056

  
Brikenbrak Theatre Project presents
  
Alligator
  
Written by Jeremy Menekseoglu
Directed by
Paul Cosca
at
Dream Theatre, 556 W. 18th Street (map)
through August 14  |  tickets: $15-$20   |  more info

reviewed by Barry Eitel

The Brikenbrak Theatre Project had quite a memorable final rehearsal of their new show, Alligator. They arrived at the space to find it completely flooded, and had just a few precious hours to caravan everything over to Dream Theatre. They also had to change up their schedule to allow for the Dream Theatre’s own Orestes. That means that the weekend shows start at 10:30, but they have more manageable start times on Mondays and Tuesdays. Although stripped, stark, and often indulging in the melodramatic, Jeremy Menekseoglu’s little 5-character play sparks and pops alive in director Paul Cosca’s hands.

Alligator Show 086 First, a note for playwrights. There are plenty great, screwed-up plays out there brimming with molestation and incest (there are also plenty of bad ones). We know this sort of depravity adds instant drama and shock value – but wears thin quickly. Unless you’re planning to view child abuse in a new way—Blackbird comes to mind—find something else to push buttons. We’ve been seeing incest on-stage since Oedipus first poked out his eyes. One of the chief problems with Menekseoglu’s script is that it falls back on hushed family secrets at the expense of strong characters. Child abuse is tragic when it happens in real life; on-stage, it feels a little cheap, probably due to repetition.

That said, Alligator does explore some intriguing consequences of abuse. We follow the neurotic antics of Velvet (a ragged Clare Kander) as she is chauffeured to a mental hospital by her brother Lone (Graham Jenkins) and his girlfriend, Cricket (Jessica London-Shields), who both happen to be Olympians. She also forges a relationship with a grocery store-clerk/ex-con, the portly Ben (Michael Plummer). As Velvet slowly loses her mind, the alligators in her past come out to feed.

Kander is the one who really drives the show forward. She is belligerent, self-destructive, and nuttier than a Payday, but ultimately engaging. She teases the audience into being on her side. Jenkins also adds interesting facets to Lone, who may be just as insane as his sister, but much more violent. Plummer does well picking up on chemistry from other actors, but he sinks during long scenes where Ben is interacting with invisible characters. Whether he’s herding customers through his line or fighting a non-existent diner owner, the scenes just aren’t believable. On the opposite end of spectrum of Kander, Shields drags the pace down, coming off as whiny and stiff. When they’re all together, the group of actors explodes into life, shattering any of their old acting habits.

 

Alligator Show 040 Alligator Show 082 Alligator Show 013

The entire cast (with the exception of Plummer) way overpowers the space. Cosca allowed far too much shrieking, screaming, and screeching. While crazy people in real life may yell a lot, no theatre audience wants to be assaulted like they are in Alligator. It takes us right out of the play and breaks the carefully-constructed link we had to the characters. There are other, far more interesting ways to build intensity.

Menekseoglu’s script is messy. There is a layer of metatheatricality that is poorly handled, especially in the final moments. Velvet seems to directly address the audience, but it’s left unclear. The play veers into controversial topics like mental health and domestic abuse without really saying anything new. It’s reminiscent of Sam Shepherd, obsessed with blue collar Americana but allowing for some Classical Greek undertones. Unfortunately, Alligator fails to resonate like Curse of the Starving Class or True West.

But Brikenbrak brings tons of heart to the play; the cast’s commitment is rock-solid. They do a remarkable job using the almost bare stage, creating and transforming worlds with just a few props. Cosca remains faithful to the text, even if leads the production down some dead-ends.

   
   
Rating: ★★½
   
   

Cypress Swamp
Lance Rosier Unit of Big Thicket National Preserve
near Sartoga, Hardin Co., Texas
3 April 2004

           
All photos by Paul Cosca