Theatre: “East of My Usual Brain”

After dinner, Mack and I watched the new charmingly-titled Stewart Lemoine play East of My Usual Brain at the Varscona Theatre. From the website:

“East of My Usual Brain sets forth the utterly unexpectable tale of young bookstore clerk Eric Thaw (Ryan Parker), whose perceptions of life in an unremarkable city undergo an extraordinary transformation when he accepts a position as the research assistant to tempestuous European author Istvan Madaras (Ron Pederson). Istvan has himself been completely untethered from his moorings after a chance encounter with the alluringly pensive Bianca (Belinda Cornish) one afternoon in a public garden. Inspired, amused, and occasionally horrified by this romantically tortured pair, Eric must broker a resolution in a suddenly unfamiliar landscape that grows more peculiar and more beautiful with every scene.”

Let me just preface this review with the advice to never attend a show tired. That said, it was no fault of the play itself that I missed most of the first half due to, well, a lack of caffeine in my system. From what I did gather, it was a typical Lemonian-exercise of a verbally shy courter, with Pederson for the first time cast not as the yuppie bystander, but as the starry-eyed would-be Romeo. Pederson did great, pulling off both a mustache and accent without falter (his silent struggle with low table seating in the tea shop was a notable comedic moment). Parker was a seamless addition to the Teatro family (as this was his Teatro debut), and I can see why Lemoine reacted with a “You–get in the car” comment after seeing Parker’s spoof of the 80s duo Wham. My only lukewarm reception was towards Cornish – noticeably older than Pederson, her inclusion in this role appeared mainly to be because of her English accent. She was as upright, mysterious, and transcendent as her character demanded, but I wasn’t entirely sold that both Eric and Istvan would fall for her. Moreover, whoever’s decision to allow Bianca the number of costume changes that would rival an Oscar host’s should regret it – Maggie Walt‘s designs were flashy and ultimately distracting. Bianca’s wardrobe superseded the focus that should have been on the words.

The set deserves its own praise as well – both beautiful and functional, the red lanterns hung behind the paper screen were a nice touch. However, I am still wondering whether designer Mike Takats deliberately chose to use low tables, despite its alignment with Japanese and not Chinese culture.

All in all, it was an enjoyable play, with the expected poignant metaphor (in this case, excuse my mangling, but of the orientation necessary in love and in life), charming characters, clever dialogue, and laughs.

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