Review: BRAINPEOPLE

By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

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 othersfeatures three very accomplished actors in three ridiculous roles.

Mayannah (Jessica Gruver) is rich, beautiful, and tormented by the death of her parents when she was eight. 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, including a Tom—but Rosemary is the "custodian of this little mental family."  The various personalities speak with different accents (this is 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 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 between the three women get more and more complicated as they are revealed in 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, and adding, presumably to keep us interested, a variety of sadomasochistic hooha.  All told, this was the longest 80 minutes in recent memory.

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Luna Theater at 620 S. 8th Street. Through May 24. Tickets $15-$25. Information: www.lunatheater.org or 215-704-0033.

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