BRENDAN (presented by Happy Medium Theatre @ BCA thru July 30th) is Ronan Noone’s sweet tragic-comedy about a shy Irish immigrant who would rather roll with the punches than direct his own life. He meanders about, never straying far from the other Irish ex-pats at the bar where he works.
Co-directors Brett Marks and Victor L. Shopov concentrate on the lovely character work by the Happy Medium folk and less on their Irish accents, which come and go (but I quickly forgot about the lapse because the quirky story is so compelling).
When you become familiar with local actors, it’s a treat to see them stretch–and Happy Medium regulars Audrey Lynn Sylvia and Mikey DiLoreto do, in roles they don’t often get to play. DiLoreto is a deft comedian but here he shows what he can do with several spot-on serious turns. Sylvia gives a tour de force as the hooker with a heart of gold. She’s so delightful in the role, I wished she’d gotten the guy!
The guy is played by Avery Bargar: Sometimes he’s a sad sack and sometimes he’s so earnest and bashful that it breaks your heart. Just when he learns that his mother has died back in the old country, doesn’t she just show up as a sort of ghostly life-coach! Happy Medium’s Kiki Samko gives a canny, sometimes tongue-in-cheek performance as the long suffering mum Brendan misses terribly but wishes would leave. (Samko plays niftily against type and age as the frumpy matriarch.)
Happy Medium’s Michael Underhill gets to strut his stuff in a number of showy roles, as does Mike Budwey, among them playing brother to Lesley Anne Moreau as Brendan’s almost-not-happening love interest. Part of the fun in BRENDAN comes from the characters who surprisingly intersect… especially with Sylvia’s hooker.
Marks and Shopov get fine performances all around, from the HM regulars to newcomers Jay Street and Melody Martin. Oh, now don’t be alarmed but opera figures important in Noone’s play. It’s because Brendan yearns to see a production at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. We hear snippets of oratorio/ opera throughout: Carmina Burana, Il Trovatore, Madame Butterfly, Tales of Hoffmann, La Wally, etc.
Only one aria, “La Donna è Mobile” from Rigoletto, has a direct bearing on the play: Brendan might well conclude that “Women are Fickle” when the woman who buys him very, very expensive Metropolitan Opera tickets breaks up with him over his taste in friends. Not to worry, it all shakes out in the end… and we even get to see an immigrant’s dream come true, to the strains of the gorgeous Pachelbel Canon.