Corey Long in Rachel White’s The Brownstone. Photo by Shaun Kenney.
By Rachel White
Directed by Tad Chitwood
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Enigmatic absurdity seems to bring out the best in director Tad Chitwood, which makes him a fair choice to direct Rachel White’s The Brownstone. White is the kind of writer who likes to open her plays with an air of mystery that can disorient the audience, forcing them to be actively thinking from the get-go.
The Brownstone introduces three odd characters living together in a condemned building in Brooklyn New York. Bo (Corey Long), a conceptual artist with a screwy, fluid vision for fixing up the place, Elliot (Tony Pike), a poet who fancies himself a latter-day Jack Kerouac, and Bunny, an eccentric young girl who has earned Bo’s infatuation but may be a teenage runaway.
White takes her time letting us discover this information, yet her writing is economical and succinct. For all its humor and strangeness, it never leaves the audience twisting in the wind. There is an intermission that feels somewhat unnecessary, so deliberate and tidy is the narrative construction.
The arrival of a fourth character, a plainclothes Cop who wears a badge around his neck (Corey Music), threatens to unravel the threadbare domestic bond that ties the other three together, and White delivers reveals enough before the final curtain to both confirm some suspicions and deliver sufficient surprise to make The Brownstone a unique storytelling experience.
Chitwood elicits fine work from his quartet of actors: Corey Long’s edgy insecurity as Bo, Tony Pike’s narcissism as Elliot, Maren Schikler’s mental instability as Bunny, all contribute to an idiosyncratic troika, while Corey Music’s glib and persuasive Cop is never quite trustworthy. The play is an examination of damaged, dysfunctional characters that function on the fringe of society, but it also plays for laughs with a cast that knows exactly how to mine the text for humor.
Coming as the third entry (of six) in the First Annual Derby City Playwrights Festival, comparisons are difficult to avoid but yield this observation: whereas @con and The Bus Stop at Sycamore and Vine, both impressive and impactful plays, have narratives that feel like swimming across a lake, where the midway point places you the furthest from identifiable points of safety, The Brownstone seems entirely focused throughout its journey, never uncertain of where to turn.
July 9 @ 7:00pm
July 17 @ 8:00pm
July 23 @ 9:30pm
Part of the First Annual Derby City Playwrights Festival
Advanced Tickets: $18 / At the door: $20
Derby City Playwrights
The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.