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Lost potential

Elliot Weiner's "Brunch" is funny, but also disjointed and confusing

"BRUNCH": Bryan Bender as MENSA-gifted, clean freak Arthur and Jefri Peters as future weather girl Tamara are the source of much entertainment.

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Brunch, a new play by local actor, director, and playwright Elliot Weiner, tells the story of three friends; three friends with a long-standing tradition of monthly brunch together, interrupted by a sequence of new additions, ranging from a pregnant girlfriend to a psychiatrist. ...

Now here's the trouble with the play: That premise is almost completely missing from the entire first act. Viewers fortunate enough to have read the show's promotional posters are well equipped to follow along, but anyone else - presumably the bulk of the walk-in audience - is given the impression this is an arbitrary six friends on an arbitrary morning, who have arbitrarily decided to dine together.

Another audience member described the flaws in Brunch quite accurately: Weiner needs an editor - someone to tell him that the premise, the driving force behind his character development, is not firmly introduced until the final scene of the final act, and that the ending feels utterly detached from the rest of the story.

Brunch has its strengths. The two characters that could easily be the leads - if the play had leads - are both excellent. Bryan Bender portrays MENSA-gifted, clean-freak Arthur to perfection. Similarly, Arthur's romantic interest of sorts, the ditzy-and-a-half, accidentally pregnant, future weather-girl Tamara is laid out to perfection by Jefri Peters. The dynamic between these two parents-to-be is the source of much entertainment. Were director Naarah McDonald tasked with a solidly-written romantic comedy starring these two, she would be golden.

Unfortunately, any effort of direction put forth by McDonald, or acting by Bender and Peters, is firmly negated by the awkward performance of Dana Clark as Gwen. Clark's personal delivery rides shotgun with the scripting troubles to create a bizarre tension between everyone onstage.

Compounding all this awkwardness is the total lack of affection demonstrated between any of the characters. Gwen is mean to her husband of 10 years, Rob, and mean to Rob's best friend, the aforementioned Arthur. Not amusingly bitchy, just plain mean.

Nobody seems to like anybody very much, and so the introduction of new characters into their supposedly close-knit group only serves to drive home the fact these people shouldn't be friends at all.

Brunch is funny despite all this. Weiner has enough of a gift for comedy to pepper the script with plenty of entertaining moments. He creates amusing cliffhangers to accompany each blackout, and with the help of strong actors draws more than a few laughs from the audience.

Unfortunately, this is not sufficient to save a script that is ultimately disjointed and confusing. Brunch loses its way before the audience even knows what that way is.


through June 27, 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, $15
Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 North I Street, Tacoma

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