G.B.S. @ Kirk Theatre, New York

cast list
Curran Connor, Jason Jacoby

directed by
Jay Rohloff
The American premiere of the play G.B.S. by Jason Hall doesn’t give a lot of hints about its content in the promotional materials.

The poster features something vaguely medical, maybe a human cell, with the sub-heading “Guillain-Barre Syndrome,” providing the assumption that the show deals with said disease – but this affliction is only used tangentially, as a plot device.

Hall’s play is a two-hander about brothers who come together, after years of separation, to visit their father, who is sick with G.B.S.
Their relationship is filled with history, resentments and unspoken issues. The genius of the play is that some of these are aired and others are shared only with the audience. These two brothers, even as fully grown men, can’t always overcome the competition and anger of their youth.

Curran Conner plays Rich, the brother who has stayed at home caring for their parents. Conner does an excellent job playing the slightly bitter, slightly dejected son and part-time father. He has been beaten up by life, his ex-wife and his mother’s memories of Sam. Jason Jacoby plays Sam, the gay brother who has escaped to London, putting physical and emotional distance between himself and his family. Jacoby plays Sam, the showier role, with an easy grace as he inhabits the role.

G.B.S. is all about their relationship, the communication and the distance between the brothers and their experiences in life. It is interestingly written not just as an interaction between the brothers, but also sometimes as an expository, in the vein of A Steady Rain on Broadway last year. The actors are required to interact as well as tell a story directly to the audience, and both men did a great job of engaging the audience when required.

The play benefits from interesting sets by a Josh Windhausen, and beautiful lighting design by Taryn Kennedy. Together, they developed a complex set of moods within a static and deceptively simple set. Director Jay Rohloff keeps the men moving and engaging with each other, even as they explain situations and actions to the audience. This direction keeps the audience in the moment in a play where it might be easy to feel a sense of distance to the action.

The play builds, at times humorously, at times tensely, often hilariously, but effectively at all times. Sometimes a show about relationships brings a forced happy ending or a dwindles away towards the end, but not this one. G.B.S. finishes strongly and honestly. And it is a tribute to the cast and crew that you care intensely about these men’s relationships. This is a wonderful show, full of surprises and emotion; one that you will remember long after you leave the theatre.

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