Joe Thompson and John Jimerson in TWO BROTHERS who are not brothers
(Photo © Richard Termine)
Joe Thompson and John Jimerson in
TWO BROTHERS who are not brothers
(Photo © Richard Termine)
At the end of the first scene in TWO BROTHERS who are not brothers, one character says to the other that they've made a start. Nothing could be further from the case. Playwright Paul Rawlings has kept the two characters' relationship vague, hinted at past events without providing any context, and brought the scene to an abrupt conclusion that has changed nothing. In this tedious new play, some exposition is eventually provided, but the lack of character development, the stilted dialogue, and the repetitiveness of the scenes make it difficult to sustain interest.

Dix (Joe Thompson) was once married to Carol, whose sister Janet was married to Jack (John Jimerson). Each couple had a pair of children -- two boys for Dix and Carol and two girls for Jack and Janet. However, an unexpected and violent tragedy has taken the lives of the two women and all four children. Dix, in his grief, wants to purge his life of all reminders of his wife. He's giving away all of her things and selling their house; and he feels that, with Carol gone, there's nothing to tie him to her family.

Jack is the one reminder of his wife that Dix can't shake off. "We're closer than brothers-in-law," Dix eventually admits -- but the reason for this closeness is not evident. Though the men are united in a shared grief, that subject is off-limits for much of the play. Neither man seems to know much about the other, and they don't appear to have much in common. Jack is a devout Christian, while Dix is a confirmed atheist. Throughout the play, Jack tries to convert Dix; nearly every scene replays the same argument as Jack fervently attempts to "save" Dix's soul.

The two actors are unable to conquer the script's flaws and, in some instances, exacerbate them. Thompson tends to talk in level tones without much vocal variation, making his character seem rather static. Jimerson, who speaks with a Southern accent, also fails to bring much depth to his role, especially since he's required to deliver so many platitudes. Neither actor is able to handle the more emotional moments in the script, and director Sue Lawless doesn't help matters by staging some scenes in an overly melodramatic manner; at different points in the show, both Jack and Dix end up crawling on the floor, supposedly overcome by grief. Needless to say, it's not convincing.

Michael J. Hotopp's scenic design is functional and attractive in depicting the living room of Dix's home. Gregory A. Hirsch keys his lighting design to various onstage light sources in an effective manner. Vanessa Leuck, in an attempt to convey the passage of time, has the actors changing their outfits frequently, sometimes at the expense of speedy scene changes.

The play is unbalanced, with a 35-minute first act and a much longer second act. This allows audience members to escape at intermission without having given too much of their time to the play, and some people did take this opportunity for an early exit on the night I attended the show. But for those who remain, the latter portion of TWO BROTHERS who are not brothers seems to drag on endlessly.