PTE comedy 'The Best Brothers' is a howl
Prairie Theatre Exchange opens season with play by Daniel MacIvor
Mortality, love, family, order versus chaos, and the curious sway dogs hold over their two-legged “masters” - Daniel MacIvor's The Best Brothers certainly covers a lot of territory. That is does so with wit and charm to spare speaks to why MacIvor is considered one of Canada's finest playwrights.
Prairie Theatre Exchange has a solid track record with his plays (including 2011's Bingo! and 2008's How It Works), and this season opener is no exception - director Bob Metcalfe's production was sharp and finely-tuned, even in its Wednesday preview performance.
There's much to be said for a play that can turn a scene featuring two brothers writing their mother's obituary into a laugh-out-loud-funny affair.- Joff Schmidt
The 2012 comedy follows the Best brothers, Hamilton (Paul Essiembre) and Kyle (Carson Nattrass) as they deal with the aftermath of their free-spirited mother's death - a “tragic, disgusting, horrifying end” (according to Hamilton) brought about by a drunken drag queen driving a float at a gay pride parade.
As they contemplate her life, the question of who mother loved best - the sober, but uptight Hamilton or the guileless Kyle - rears its head. In a series of slightly surreal - but sumptuously-written - monologues, the two actors take turns playing Bunny, the deceased mother - who reveals it may actually have been the dog, Enzo, that was her true love.
At the same time, The Best Brothers has a poignancy to it that often surprises. Consider, for example, Bunny's meditation on the cosmos, and her own place in it - “A planet in many universes, but a sun in none.” While comedy is front and centre here, MacIvor still manages to ask some profound questions about what love is, what “family” really means, and the order - or lack thereof - of the universe.
There's lots of quick back-and-forth in the writing of the 90-minute script, and Metcalfe's snappily-paced production makes the most of it. So, too, does his two-man local cast. Nattrass finds the charm in Kyle's cluelessness. And Essiembre - an actor quickly establishing himself as one of the city's best - gives a gracefully nuanced performance that makes us care about a character who could easily become a dull stick in the mud.
The smart flow of the show is helped considerably by clever design work. Janelle Regalbuto's elegantly simple set is a “blank canvas” of a rolling white backdrop, onto which everything from a starry night sky to architectural floor plans to Scott Henderson's bold lighting design is projected.
No bones about it - The Good Brothers is a breed unto itself, and highly recommended.