Mommy Issues on Foreign Soil: BRENDAN

Photo credit: Josephine Anes;  Avery Bargar and Kiki Samko.

Photo credit: Josephine Anes; Avery Bargar and Kiki Samko, not so snugly.

Presented by Happy Medium Theatre Company
Written by Ronan Noone
Directed by Brett Marks and Victor L. Shopov

July 15-30, 2016
Boston Center for the Arts
539 Tremont St

Boston, MA 02116
Happy Medium on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

Disclaimer: I auditioned for this show way back when. I wasn’t cast. Only a self-serving, insecure butt-face would let something like that color their review.

(Boston, MABrendan marks the return of Happy Medium Theatre Company. Welcome back, guys; we’ve missed you. Please don’t ever leave us like that again.

Brendan is a play with classical music about Brendan (Avery Bargar), a wishy washy, ex-pat Irishman running from his Mommy issues. He hides in drink, sex and other irresponsibilities but can’t shake his past. It could be because he’ll always miss his home, or it could be because he’s haunted by the apparition of his recently departed Mother (Kiki Samko in unfortunate age makeup).  After nearly killing a punk kid with his fists, Brendan pulls himself together in time to awkwardly romance his lovely neighbor, Rose (Lesley Anne Moreau). In this production Victor Shopov filled in for Mike Budwey as Declan/Victor.

This is a strange show. The character Brendan has a lot of issues that he tries to ignore through anti-social behavior. This would make most people unlikable but Bargar’s work makes his character lovable. Upon first introduction, no one’s going to snuggle him on a bad day, but by the end of the show snuggling on a good day is a real possibility.

That being stated, the character Brendan is an indecisive man. The unsightly characters he shares a stage with are much better at making decisions of any kind. One should consider if spending 90 minutes with a man like this is worth it. Brendan is a good show but it’s a good show about people I’d rather read about in small chunks than in one large dose.

Congratulations are in order for the artistic staff that went above and beyond the call of duty. Cara Pacifico’s costuming effectively highlights the character work of the actors. In specific, the ostentatious costumes for Maria (Audrey Lynn Sylvia), the sex worker with a heart of gold, made us ever aware of Maria’s purpose to titillate on all levels. Marc Ewart’s scenic design was laden with chickens. Chickens as far as the eye could see! But, he caught the quaint aesthetic of a more rustic home. His set in the round with its cozy nooks placed us in different worlds without disrupting the production’s flow. Dialect coach Charles Linshaw had his work cut out for him. The casts’ accents were believable.

One of the plot threads of Brendan follows his naturalization process. There’s a bit read by a Judge (Mikey DiLoreto) about pursuing happiness as first class citizens. This short scene (that confused the audience because we couldn’t tell if the show had ended or not) reminds the audience with nervous clarity of how immigrants are treated in the US: not well. The people in this scene who receive their citizenship papers are told that they are free to unshackle themselves from their shameful, illegal past. They are finally welcome on US soil. Worth isn’t determined by legal residency. Please consider why people come to the US and what they might face elsewhere. Please consider compassion if it wouldn’t be your first choice.

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