The best word to describe Daniel MacIvor’s “The Best Brothers,” produced by the Modern Theater Spokane, is “interesting” – interesting to look at and interesting to listen to.
“Best Brothers” is theater of the absurd, as evidenced by the incongruous backdrop and Beckett-esque dialogue. The set, designed by George Green, David Clemons and Teko Dumoulin, features furniture placed off kilter and giant blueprints, business cards and other written notes.
Populating this world are brothers Kyle and Hamilton Best, played by Todd Jasmin and Dave Rideout, respectively. They have just lost their mother to a freak accident – crushed by an overweight Filipino drag queen who fell off a float in the gay pride parade. The sons’ reactions to this tragic event is atypical and somewhat aloof, but that disconnect is common in the absurd genre. Yes, Kyle, it is bad form to include your business website address in your mother’s obituary.
Jasmin and Rideout do seem like brothers, in appearance and manner. There is sibling rivalry between them, as mother loved Kyle best – at least until she got a dog.
“Best Brothers” is really a play about words. MacIvor enjoys playing with words and turns of phrase, including much reiteration. “Peacefully, peacefully, peacefully, peacefully,” Kyle says repeatedly. MacIvor likes to set recurring phrases in different contexts to comic effect, which Jasmin and Rideout deliver with great timing. The rhythm does become monotonous in a few spots.
As the characters speak of their places in the universe, director Brooke Kiener has them orbiting each other. They are like celestial bodies flying through space, occasionally passing each other, perhaps even colliding, but never really connecting. Kiener’s staging and the lighting design by Dan Heggem accentuate this well.
At times the dead mother incarnates each of her sons, a convention that doesn’t satisfy in this production. While we hear her words, her voice and character don’t quite come through.
Act two puts forth some big ideas as Hamilton decries the loss of our collective imagination. “Does nothing even matter?” he asks. Says his brother, “Everything seems so independent of everything else,” reflecting the play itself and where the playwright thinks we all are in the cosmos.
But it doesn’t matter. As Hamilton tells his brother, “You’re exactly who you’re supposed to be.”
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