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REVIEW: A New Brain

by David Wallace, Special to Community

When I first heard of A New Brain and learned that it was a musical, I wondered how that could be? What next? Wit, which CenterStage will present later in the season, as a musical? Would their featured number be Singing in the Brain?

As the show started the night I attended my mind started to change. From the beginning I realized that Mr. Bungee wasn’t Kermit the Frog and that any subject in the world can be sung about.

Gordon Michael Schwinn, played by Jordan Price, suffers a blackout early in the play and is diagnosed with arterial venous malformation, as was the author of the play, William Finn. The play describes Gordon’s subsequent operation and various reactions to it.

This show continuously pushes the envelope to the edge of absurdity and then backs off just in time. No one is what they are supposed to be. Richard, the “nice” nurse, played by Anthony Johnson, has an image problem.

Nancy D., the not-so-nice nurse, played by the ever-reliable Lauren McCombs, is a trim version of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’s Nurse Ratched. Roger, Gordon’s lover, first appears singing I’d Rather Be Sailing.” Mother Mimi Schwinn, played by Jennifer Pennington, reacts to Gordon’s illness by engaging in “therapeutic” censorship. Mr. Bungee, played by Jason Cooper, is cruel, ego-driven and insensitive, but encourages Gordon in a scene near the end.

When all is said and done, the play is an affirmation of living and as Lisa, the Homeless Lady, played by Tamika Prince – she of the deep rolling gospel voice – says: “I’m just asking for change,” and that’s what almost everybody does during the course of this play (though I’m not so sure about Nancy D.) – change and survive.

In many ways this is a new experiment for CenterStage and I urge you to take advantage of it.

I also urge that you sign up for the season which continues October 24-November 10 with the area premiere of Les Miserables.

 

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