TO Fringe Review: Brothers and Arms

I mentioned this in my preview article for this show, and I compulsively feel like I have to bring it up, even though it’s probably not strictly necessary: the Fringe play Brothers and Arms is written and directed by a friend of mine. Depending on how you feel about things like bias and objectivity in your bloggers, this may be worth keeping in mind while I rave about his show and tell everyone to go and see it…

Brothers And Arms is split into two parallel storylines: in the first, William (Jason Martorino) returns home from World War II missing an arm to his manipulative girlfriend Rebecca (Sara VanBuskirk) and comic artist brother Jazzy (Brad Emes), and has difficulty wrapping his mind around it when things back home aren’t the way they were supposed to be. In the second, Wayne (Emes), an Iraq war vet with some PTSD issues, drops in on his brother Chance (Martorino), a comic book cover artist, and Chance’s girlfriend Kristen, who used to be Wayne’s fiance.

In the first half, the problems come largely from the girlfriend, who has dated both men and tries to seduce Jazzy before William arrives on the scene, and the lack of respect that both the others have for Jazzy and his “doodles,” as they call them. Tension ramps up pretty quickly after William arrives, then has his idealized world view torn apart. In the second, the problems come from Wayne’s mental illness, which causes him to see conspiracies and sedition in Chance’s anti-war comic book cover work. He thinks his brother may be part of a terrorist plot, and when he tries to remove Kristen from their home, things get ugly.

It’s a good plot, and empathy and recognition of how tough it is to be a soldier returning from war is certainly worth talking about. Martorino steals both scenes with his two characters, while Emes does a good job with Wayne’s mental unbalance, though he looked a bit stiff as Jazzy at times. VanBuskirk plays both her roles well, but I find that both female characters are a little underdeveloped here; Rebecca, from the first half, is flat-out unlikeable, and doesn’t seem to have a lot of redeeming qualities that would draw these two guys to her, while Kristen just seems like a victim in all this. I found the second half worked better for me than the first; the pace seemed quicker and the dialogue felt a little more natural.

That said, it’s a strong play where the tension builds towards a believable climax in both halves. Having a soft spot for comic books (just as I know writer/director Stephen Jackson does) there’s a few references in here that I enjoyed, and if you know a bit about the history of comics as propaganda pieces the contrast between the relentlessly anti-fascist, pro-America and unrealistic comics of the 40’s and the left-leaning, anti-George W. Bush comics that were frequently made last decade is interesting. It’s a play worth seeing, even if you don’t know the playwright. If you do get a chance to know the playwright though, you should. He’s a nice guy.

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Posted on by Brian in Everything, Fringe, Reviews, Theatre

4 Responses to TO Fringe Review: Brothers and Arms

  1. Beth

    This review is definitely biased.
    Please save your money folks and read the article below to see what you’re not missing out on

    http://www.eyeweekly.com/article/94764

  2. Brian

    So Beth, you share the Eye Weekly opinion, I gather? I thought the Eye review was a little unfair, what with the “First time director/writer Steven Jackson has had his Fringe cherry popped” bit and all. But hey, dissenting opinion is great. The only comment on the Eye review is from a person who liked the show, and NOW thought it was an ok show. I admit my own bias freely, if you think it overly affected my review, that’s cool, thanks for reading.

  3. Oscar Fellini

    As someone who has seen four shows Eye Weekly has panned and enjoyed them all I strongly caution anyone from reading into their reviews. Their promise to review every show meant they pulled reviewers from the very bottom of the barrel to achieve the task. The result being that many plays were reviewed by folks who were absolutely clueless. One reviewer even confessed his only brush with the stage was his elementary school christmas pageant. Pathetic. Seek other sources if you want a more informed opinion.

  4. Pingback: Theatre Review: An Inspector Calls [Stage Centre] | The Panic Manual

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