Monday, November 23, 2015

Review: Ghosts Before Bros

The ghosts of our past will haunt us no matter how near or far in our lives they happened. In Lesser America's presentation of the gripping The Bachelors by Caroline V. McGraw, a trio of men are forced to face their demons inside and the ghosts that are still alive.
With themes of misogyny, objectification, and a tinge of the super natural, The Bachelors is a dark dramedy that follows three men in drastically different places in their lives who all find themselves battling their internal worst and their handling of the opposite sex. Kevlar drinks himself to inebriation after his girlfriend breaks up with him after she discovers she has cancer. Laurie returns home early from a rough business trip after an incident at a strip club. Henry is living the life in medicine all while being a womanizer of local sorority girls. The three man-child bros range in maturity but each have a skewed vision have how to treat women. McGraw's script blends comedy and the supernatural to dissect some dark themes on gender that dares the audience to join in on the ride. The recipe for success for McGraw is by mixing the simple complexity of Annie Baker and gritty tenacity of Adam Rapp. The story is daring and engaging but when the play ends, it's possible you may be shocked that it wasn't intermission. McGraw sets up many plot points but never resolves them. I suppose it's a good thing when you're left wanting more. Ambiguity is in full force in this play, but sometimes when there’s too much unanswered you can’t help be feel unsatisfied. Regardless, what is present in the script is interesting. It’s evident that McGraw’s story is one for the feminists proving the age-old saga of how men don’t see woman as human is still very much present. There’s no transparency in McGraw’s text. The subtext is clear. Whether the characters and situations are a generalization, the fact of the matter is its sadly still true. When it comes to her writing, McGraw has some stunning passages. Coming back to the Adam Rapp comparison, the stripper monologue from Laurie is McGraw at her finest, though some would say the slurppy monologue takes the cake. Laurie’s monologue had shades of the red dress monologue from Rapp’s Red Light Winter. The imagery that McGraw painted in this monologue was so visceral, it left you on the edge of your seat. Writers like to use devices to help open up doors in stories. One such devise is drugs and alcohol. In theater, and life, drugs and alcohol are like truth serum. It lowers the inhibitions of the characters to freely talk about the things that may be hidden deep inside. To say that incorporating the extensive amount of drinking in this play was safe is easy. But it also served as a crutch. There’s nothing wrong with it in the context of the play, but it opens up the door of "would everything be coming to light in this very moment had there been no drugs or alcohol?" The other bit of theatrical disbelief that comes into question is when the news breaks of the girl in the attic, Laurie pounces at the opportunity to discover leaving a free moment for Henry and Kevlar. In reality, Laurie spent an exuberant amount of time in that attic to do next to nothing making you begin to question Laurie has a character. But that is very likely the first clue to the dark side of the straight-laced Laurie.
When you have captivating writing, it gets infinitely elevated with a strong ensemble. The three men that comprised The Bachelors had an incredible connection on stage. While they may have fitting into a specific type box, they did so with ease. Blake DeLong as the lovesick drunk Kevlar physically melted into his character. DeLong easily played the self-destructive inebriated Kevlar, willingly throwing himself around the stage like a ragdoll. Playing wasted can be hard as it could easily feel forced but DeLong’s performance was anything but. Quincy Dunn-Baker looked like the guy you could trust but Henry is a dark individual. Until Henry’s true colors were revealed, Dunn-Baker kept it cool but as the truths began to unravel, Dunn-Baker exploded with energy. Each character has something deep and dark repressed but Dunn-Baker’s Henry is a true villain. And a fascinating one at that. Babak Tafti as Laurie played into the hysterical nature of his character’s situation without coming off as cartoonish. Tafti was able to entice you with his secret until he was ready to bare all. The only time he seemed to struggle is making his character swift feel natural. It was a bit rushed in the scope of his arc.
Ambiance is everything and Portia Krieger and her design team pulled off the unthinkable. The Bachelors could easily be played in a black box studio with a minimal design but by going the distance, it heightened McGraw’s script greatly. The messy bachelor pad designed by Carolyn Mraz was so intricate and detail-oriented that you discovered something new every time you looked. It was a mess but a well-designed mess. The bachelor pad was set in or around Boston but perhaps setting the play in “Anytown, USA” would hammer in McGraw’s message a bit stronger. Krieger’s use of Mraz’s space was quite wonderful. Krieger had her actors explore unsafe places on stage that created some dynamic stage pictures. The costume design by Sydney Maresca perfectly captured the essence of each character. Lights and sounds played an integral role in The Bachelors. Lighting designer Masha Tsimring and sound designer Elisheba Ittoop worked cohesively when it came to creating moods. With the play living in a fantastical realism world, Tsimring may have gone a bit too far at times, dimming the lights during monologues to a severely noticeable place. Ittoop’s use of reverberation was an essential player and well executed.
The Bachelors is a daring and polarizing production and that’s what makes it so great. No matter how the play makes you feel, you’re eager to discuss what you just saw and that’s a win in my book. Lesser America is never afraid to swing for the fences and yet again, they hit a homerun.