Presented by Happy Medium Theatre Company
By T. Scott Barsotti
Directed by Mikey DiLoreto
Review by Gillian Daniels
(Boston) Happy Medium Theatre and writer T. Scott Barsotti embrace the American gothic tradition with enthusiasm in Brewed. It’s a fully fleshed-out horror story with the bones of a family melodrama, a violent reaction to the ties that bind blood siblings. The whose story is a creepy creature and a bleakly humorous outing for the Halloween season.
Sisters Colette (Kendall Aiguier), Juliette (Kiki Samko), Paulette (Audrey Lynn Sylvia), and Babette (Lauren Foster) all live secluded from the world in the woods. Juliette acts as the sensible family rock, Paulette simmers in a fog of anger, Colette perpetually misunderstands the gravity of every situation she encounters, and Babette is both physically and emotionally crippled. The sisters spend their days stirring a pot full of a mysterious, unnamed substance.
Their static lifestyle is interrupted with the return of the wild Roxette (Katiee Treadway), who has begun an innocent romance with the quirky, kindly Lee (Elizabeth Battey), and Nanette (Lindsay Eagle), their famous NASCAR driver sister. Keeping it together for the volatile family proves impossible and, slowly, their world begins to change.
Barsotti’s characters, when not screaming at each other, come to physical blows. Their parents have taught them, “Everyone prefers aggressive passion to passive aggression,” and they show it by starting duels that end in messy, bare-knuckle boxing matches. It can be hard to watch.
The supernatural element of their lives peaks around the edge of the sisters’ story but the main action is found in their stunted growth. Eagle’s Nanette and Samko’s Juliette play this up beautifully and with wonderful timing. Everything the sisters do is a sign of a greater, deeper chasm of grief left by parents who shaped their co-dependence and cruelty.
Lauren Foster’s Babette is manic and often speaks in a high-pitched, child’s voice. She overplays her character with squeals, screams, and whines, sometimes flattening her to a cardboard villain. Still, something about Babette’s desperate bids for attention drives the play forward.
Happy Medium Theatre Co. does an excellent job staging the story. The lighting sets the perfect mood, whether Colette has decided to pick a fight with Paulette or Babette is having one of her fits. Everything and everyone on stage is tense and eerie, leaving a nervous energy in the room.
Brewed is admittedly not a play for everyone. It offers little solace for those attempting to navigate their own family troubles. For audiences attracted to the psychological terror tradition of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, however, the gothic family drama is a treat.