Review: ‘Brainpeople’ — The Easy-Learn Theater Guide!

 Amanda Grove (left), Jessica Gruver and Amanda Schoonover in Luna Theater Company's production of 'Brainpeople'

Amanda Grove (left), Jessica Gruver and Amanda Schoonover in Luna Theater Company's production of 'Brainpeople'

Hold on to your hats.

 

 

The particulars

TITLE: “Brainpeople”
PLAYWRIGHT: Jose Rivera
PLAY TYPE: Profound
TO WHOM: The Playwright
EMOTIONAL TYPE: Angst
COMPREHENSION LEVEL: Impossible
LENGTH: 80 minutes
REAL-FEEL: Longer
CURRENTLY PRODUCED BY: Luna Theater Company in Center City

The plot

In an undetermined nation under martial law and laden with curfews, an enormously rich young woman with no friends has sent armored cars to collect two people she’s just met. She has promised them a dinner with a prize at the end: $20,000 if they can “make it through dessert,” as she says.

They appear at her apartment – a sort of ramshackle church interior with a large dining-room table. She tells them this is an annual dinner and drops hints that the strange event is special. One of the guests has multiple personalities and her name is Rosemary, Rosetta, Rosie and sometimes Tom. She possibly hates men. She either speaks in a British accent or not. Another is a skittish woman named Ani. She’s recently been in a relationship. She hates men. The hostess herself, dressed in black, is just plain weird.

She serves her guests a large platter of tiger. One guest gobbles it down, the other is repulsed. The hostess eats nothing. Conversation ensues. Each of the characters has a solo show-off riff filled with emotion, sort of like musicians in a jazz combo but less musical. 

Talking points

In a recurring theme of “Brainpeople,” the hostess asks her two dinner guests to determine whether by eating tiger, they infuse themselves with the essence of the particular tiger they are eating. After the show, consider these possibile variations on the theme:

If you eat a hotdog, you are confused. 
If you eat mushrooms, you enjoy playing in dirt and having, well, you know, thrown at you.
If you intentionally skip a meal, you are an existentialist.

Some lines and phrases of dialogue you should know:

“I can smell the dirt in my grave.”
(Uttered in otherworldly groans, intermittently): “Poverty!” “Ruined!” “I!”
“Inner goo”
“…put my fingers in his wounds and eat his sorrow”
“You haven’t even touched your tiger!”

A line you can immediately identify with: 

“Oh, God! My head!”

We learn in the first few minutes that the hostess has long ago lost her parents, and we’re led to believe tigers somehow figure into this. She may be looking for some facsimile of Mother and Father. Is this a good enough reason to:

Wait about 75 minutes to reveal the details and the reason for this dinner?
Allow the dinner guests to talk about their own bizarre qualities that have little relationship to anything we can discern?
Seek out a script doctor?

Three actresses who do their utmost:

Jessica Gruver
Amanda Grove
Amanda Schoonover

Three actresses and one director who may believe they can draw motivations from the text:

Jessica Gruver
Amanda Grove
Amanda Schoonover
Gregory Scott Campbell

 

“Brainpeople,” produced by Luna Theater Company, runs through May 24 at the company’s stage, to the side of the Church of the Crucifixion, 620 S. Eighth St., between South and Bainbridge. www.lunatheater.org

 

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