Dinner party doldrums

Luna Theater's one-act play "Brainpeople," by Jose Rivera, stars (from left) Amanda Grove, Jessica Gruver, and Amanda Schoonover.
Luna Theater's one-act play "Brainpeople," by Jose Rivera, stars (from left) Amanda Grove, Jessica Gruver, and Amanda Schoonover. (GREGORY SCOTT CAMPBELL)
Posted: May 08, 2014

Billed as "magical realism," Jose Rivera's play Brainpeople seems more like psychotic realism. Luna Theater's production of the well-known playwright's one-act - Rivera wrote Marisol and the screenplay for Motorcycle Diaries, among others - features three accomplished actors in three ridiculous roles.

Mayannah (Jessica Gruver) is rich, beautiful, and tormented by the death of her parents when she was 8 years old.

For reasons mainly unintelligible, each year on the anniversary of this sad event, she invites two strangers to a lavish meal. This dinner party is an exceptional occasion, since she lives in a country ruled by martial law, where everyone is hungry, and going outdoors is cause for mortal fear. The food and wine she serves are so "delicious that [they] taste like sweet revenge." Make of that what you will.

One of the two guests invited this year is Rosemary (Amanda Grove), who, it turns out, suffers from multiple-personality disorder; her "brainpeople" emerge from time to time - Rosalie, Rosalyn, and so on, as well as Tom - but Rosemary is the "custodian of this little mental family." The various personalities speak with different accents (an actor's opportunity to show off) and are variously hostile and self-destructive and just plain nasty.

The other guest is Ani (Amanda Schoonover), who seems at first to be the only rational person in the room, finding most of these goings-on scary and unpleasant. But wait! Soon she'll have her chance at a long monologue in which she reveals her own unhappiness and her own peculiarities; central to her lonely misery is the fact that she was abandoned by her lover, a TV news anchor, whom she adored, but only on screen. But wait! They had a child. Could it be that Mayannah. . . .

The relationships among the three women get more and more complicated as they are revealed in the course of much pretentious speechifying. Gregory Scott Campbell directs, but there is little a director can do with such a script. Rivera combines sexual politics with military politics, adding, presumably to keep us interested, a variety of sadomasochistic hooha. All told, this was the longest 80 minutes in recent memory.


THEATER REVIEW

Brainpeople

Through May 24 at Luna Theater, 620 S. Eighth St.

Tickets: $15-$25. Information: 215-704-0033 or www.lunatheater.org.

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