Review | The Brothers Paranormal: possessed by dispossession

A co-production between Penumbra and Mu Performing Arts, at Penumbra through May 26

Regina Marie Williams, James Craven, Kurt Kwan, Sherwin Resurrección in THE BROTHERS PARANORMAL.

Billed as a ghost story The Brothers Paranormal begins lightly, with humor and a comic set-up. But scene by scene the play becomes more serious as playwright Prince Golmolvilas draws parallel worlds of reality. Max, a Thai-American, and his brother own a company that promises to get rid of ghosts that haunt people’s premises. Delia, a black American forced to leave New Orleans with her husband after hurricane Katrina requests their services.

You could enjoy this play simply on that level. But The Brothers Paranormal, a collaboration between Theatre Mu and Penumbra Theatre, is a great deal more than a gather round the campfire ghost story. This is the tale of the very real suffering of those who feel unmoored in the reality in which they find themselves. Whether it is a move to a new state or emigrating across an ocean these people are possessed by the difficulty of transitioning from one life that is no longer available to them to a new life that lacks cultural significance.

Director Lou Bellamy has an excellent cast to work with, from treasured actor James Craven and leading man Sherwin Resurreccion (as Max) through Regina Marie Williams (seen a few years ago as Nina Simone in Park Square’s Nina Simone: Four Women), Kurt Kwan, Leslie Ishii and finally, lithe and limber Michelle de Joya. The characters they portray teeter along threatened by addiction and mental instability. Unable to fully transition, they haunt and are haunted by loved ones, by the past, and by their errors in judgement. Not only is the old familiar territory lost but something of the old self is lost and a new self is hard to find. Empathy is conjured by these actors who portray people struggling with their dispossession.

But all this metaphorical seriousness doesn’t dampen the fact that this is one good evening of storytelling, well written and well produced. It is a ripping good yarn with nifty effects and some jolting surprises. Designers Vicki Smith (Set) Scott Edwards (Sound) and Karin Olson (Lighting) all deserve a round of applause.

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