A frontal set made up of overlapping rectangles that establish an endless depth, glowing with interesting colour as the two men standing on either side of the stage, note our position in the audience and prepare us for what is to come. These are the Brothers. On one side Kyle (Andy Massingham), a flamboyant real estate agent trying to convince us and his clients to buy his condo, intoxicated with words as he praises the qualities of his product. The other brother, on the other side of the stage is Hamilton, (John Ng) cool and calm, exceedingly rational, dressed in a suit, an architect who is explaining his recent project to potential buyers. Their phones ring simultaneously. . Reactions on both sides are immediate except that the reactions are not the same. “Just something…” I can take care of it…says Kyle, “a tragedy…” says Hamilton the cool architect who tries not to appear upset but is very moved. Lights down then back up as all the rituals that accompany death and its closure for the family, structure the rest of the show. What we see emerging , under the stress of their mother’s campy accident is a the whole grieving process which underlies both the comedy and the strained relationship between the two sons, where jealousy rears its ugly head more than once and where the extraordinary Bunny (or Mommy) is recreated as the focal point of their lives.
This is actually an extremely brilliant piece of dramaturgy by Daniel MacIvor who uses all the tools of the theatrical performance – even comedy, to show us rather than explain or describe, the complex aspects of the human being in such a difficult situation. The main thing we see is that the narrative is given much less importance than the way MacIvor uses theatre to perform the intricacies of their lives. What was exceedingly rewarding was the way director Eric Coates and his cast (and technical support) all worked in perfect harmony to fore ground the way deceased Bunny hovers over the whole event, in spite of her “disgusting accident” that becomes a hilarious scene of word plays and alliterations that set off Kyle’s sense of overbearing poetic language and particularly playful way of seeing the world and the angry reactions coming from the more restrained brother, a fuming John Ng who was perfectly suited to his role.
In fact, the more straight laced Hamilton, with the aristocratic name, does his best to be serious, reserved, respectful but he fairly boils with anger as Kyle throws decorum to the wind and buts in or outdoes his self-conscious brother, especially during the funeral service where they are presenting the multi facets of Bunny and her remarkable life. It was a bit of Laurel and Hardy, Steven and Chris with the Campy Kyle taking over the funeral show, and with attempts at Japanese theatre where they both hog the Onnagata show, set off by the ritual exchange of props that signify their transformation into the main woman in their lives. Transformations that were enhanced by the lighting, the shadows, the way the set changes emphasized the horizontal movements of the props. They also established the ritualized perfection of these characters whose impeccable performances, illustrated the generally unstable nature of human identity, of which Bunny’s was no doubt the most complex example one could imagine. But, such is the nature of human characters, to the point where a dog would seem to be more of a comfort and less of a challenge than any of these humans in the play. Enzo the dog took on the challenge in his little hut! Luckily he remained an imaginary dog because animals tend to upstage humans but I could not imagine Enzo upstaging Andy Massingham, not for a moment!!
A deliciously provocative show and so well executed. It also says much about theatre.
The Best Brothers by Daniel MacIvor plays until March 29 at the Great Canadian Theatre Company.
Written by Daniel MacIvor
Directed by Eric Coates
Featuring Andy Massingham and John Ng.
Set and costume design: Roger Schultz
Lighting design: Jock Munro
Sound design: Aymar
CAST: Andy Massingham (Kyle) and John Ng (Hamilton)
Set and costumes: Riger Schulz
Lighting: Jock Munro
Vocalist; Nicky Brodie