When a character in the play you're watching describes his incipient bowel movement as a "turtle head" poking out of his butthole, you know you're in for some refined theater.
Of course, playwright and co-star David Michael Sirois never intended his reprisal of Brothers Beckett, originally presented at the cozy Alliance Theater Lab in Miami Lakes and now a part of the Arsht Center's Theater Up Close series, to be a serious matter.
That's clear from the moment one lays eyes on the Beckett set at the Center's Carnival Studio Theater before the metaphorical curtain comes up. Against the background of pukey-pink studio apartment walls are strewn dozens of pre-teen toys, among them a giant Crayola crayon, a pulley-based letter delivery system that runs from top to bottom bunk bed, and the late '90s classic, Bop-It.
The sight of these childish living quarters does help soften the would-be shock of meeting mega-immature brothers Kevin and Brad Beckett (Gabe Hammad and Sirois), two Ivy League graduates in their late 20s and early 30s, respectively, who seem to be stuck in the fifth grade emotionally, regardless of what their fancy diplomas say.
The very first scene finds these adult-ish men playing a heated game of backgammon during which they alternately mock each other like cranky five-year-olds and bicker at each other like crotchety 75-year-olds. The main source of squabble is Kevin's long-distance, long-term girlfriend, Tuesday, who will soon be arriving for a one-week stay at the brothers' crusty-looking man pad. Somewhat inexplicably, unemployed older brother Brad is certain Tuesday is a whore who's made shagging the entire football team an extracurricular activity at the University of Miami. Kevin, a struggling playwright, a dreamer, and a romantic who, in his excitement for Tuesday's visit, has crafted a glittery "Welcome Soulmate" sign to greet her upon her arrival, scowls and squirms at his mooching brother's jabs in an amusingly girlish way.
As their antagonistic exchange progresses, in walks Doug (Mark Della Ventura), the Kramer-esque hot mess wacky neighbor (complete with wild, frizzy hair) who apparently has a knack for rendering toilets defunct with the aid of his hyperactive colon (and a talent for breaking up the steady pace of the play with hilarious, costumed cameos and ridiculous interjections). He's already destroyed the pipes in his own apartment, and so he regularly waltzes into the Beckett brothers' grody abode to relieve himself. And this is how they live.
When Kevin announces that he plans to propose to his object of adoration and potentially claw his way out of this dorm-living limbo, Brad reacts typically of someone about to lose both his meal ticket and his lifelong best friend: in fear and anger. As the play progresses, we meet the much talked-about Tuesday (Ashley Price), as well as the "I don't know I'm hot" girl-next door, a germaphobe and meteorologist named Joyce (Julie Daniels).
The plot shifts and twists a bit, but a few constants remain --- most notably, the boys' interesting mix of emotional immaturity, almost effeminate sentimentality, and co-mingled reluctance and desire to finally reach adulthood.
Sirois' writing is, for the most part, very clever, and with the direction of Adalberto Acevedo of the Alliance Theater Lab, the delivery is expertly timed for maximum laughter. For children of the 80s whose growing up has been stunted by the economy and our own strange sense of entitlement, it's difficult to tell whether the over-the-top juvenility of it all, which has grown men saying things like "beddy-bye," sleeping in bunk beds, and hiding in bathtubs when they feel down, is so embarrassing because it's so far from reality or so close to it. Regardless, the play is definitely funny, and an especially good choice for people who are more likely to stay home and watch The Simpsons than to go out to the theater.
The play runs March 13 to 24 at the Adrienne Arsht Center's Carnival Studio Theater. Tickets cost $35. Go to arshtcenter.org.
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