Thursday, August 06, 2009

Full 'blood'ed entertainment

'Blood Brothers' continues run at Eastern Slope Inn Playhouse

“Blood Brothers,” which opened Tuesday, Aug. 4, at the Eastern Slope Inn Playhouse in North Conway, N.H. and will be running through Aug. 15, is a rich and complex musical that mixes comedy, tragedy and class conflict into an entertaining and deeply moving social parable.

This is another high-quality production from the Mount Washington Valley Theatre Company. Director Andrew Glant-Linden ably balances the shifts in tone and stages engaging music numbers with musical director Chris Tilley.

The show, which has been playing in London’s West End for 21 years, opens with the gun shots killing fraternal twin brothers, who were separated at birth only to become friends later in life never knowing the truth. Things rewind back to before their birth and slowly builds back to the opening.

Their lower-class English mother Mrs. Johnston (Alison Rose Munn) already had a litter of kids when she was left by her husband with two more buns in the oven. With her new job as a cleaning lady for high-class Mrs. Lyons (Liz Clark-Golson) she could make ends meet with just one more child but not two. Mrs. Lyons offers to take one of the children, but due to certain circumstances, no one could ever know the truth.

Mickey (Matt Kacergris), the lower-class brother, and Edward (Matthew Patrick), the higher-class brother, meet at age 7 playing in the streets and become instant friends despite the protests of their mothers. When they discover they were born on the same day they make a pact to be blood brothers and always be there for each other.

A third musketeer throughout the years is Linda (Eben Logan) who both boys fall in love with, but who seems destined to be with Mickey because they share the same social standing. Class and how it can determine your life is the issue that the show, written by Willy Russell, skillfully tackles.

As Mickey and Edward enter their teen years it seems that the strength of their friendship will transcend the roles that their backgrounds set for them, but even in the brightest moments the tragedy the show is building toward looms.

Lest you forget the tragic implications of the opening, a narrator (Dennis O’Neil) reminds us of the pending doom with the reoccurring song “Shoes Upon the Table,” which preys on the superstitions of the two mothers.

O’Neil, a local literature teacher, musician and actor, acts as both narrator and as a one-man Greek chorus commenting on the events. In one of the show's best sequences he provides a wistful commentary for Mickey, Edward and Linda’s carefree summers as teens.

The same actors play the characters from age 7 to 23, which may seem like a gimmick except that the leads are so good. Kacergis, Patrick and Logan all capture the happy-go-lucky energy of childhood. This particularly holds true in the lively ensemble number, “Kids Game.”

The three leads have a great chemistry together and genuinely seem to be friends. They transition well into the awkwardness of teen years and then the harsher realities of adulthood and manage to keep the same character thread throughout.

Munn and Clark-Golson are also exceptional as the mothers. Clark-Golson, in a very different performance from those who saw her as Ulla in “The Producers,” is full of insecurities and paranoia about her adopted son. It is a brave performance because Mrs. Lyons is at times a very unlikable person.

Munn has the warmer, more outwardly motherly character to play. She brings a quiet pain to scenes she shares with Patrick’s Edward. At times, like O’Neil, she provides commentary through the song “Marilyn Monroe,” which compares the unfolding events to the looks and life of Marilyn Monroe.

Despite the tragic opening and closing that bookend the show, this isn’t full of despair. There are many moments of comedy and an affectionate sense of nostalgia for childhood and adolescence.

When things turn dark, it isn’t forced, but a natural extension of the characters and plot and all the more painful because we’ve shared moments of joy and laughter with the characters.

For more information call the box office at 356-5776 or visit

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