Tempest Theatre Co and director Emma Maguire present Two Bros*, a contemporary courtship comedy. Loosely based on the 17th Century Italian play La Locandiera, two clueless “bros” fight for the attention of smoking hot bar manager Lina. S&M’s was the perfect setting. As a quintessentially ‘Wellington’ bar, it offered moody blue lighting and walls crammed with an eclectic collection of portraits and bizzare decorations like a framed and autographed pair of Dan Carter’s Jockeys.
Cevin and Mike mingle with the audience as we enter the downstairs stage: it feels natural. After a joyously drunk rendition of The Exponent’s “Why does love do this to me,” the bros quickly discover they both traveled cross country for the same reason. They have both been ghosted by Lina and, unable to take a hint, compete for her attention. Following the odd couple trope, Mike and Cevin are the perfectly imperfect pair. Their physical comedy is key to the two’s polar characteristics. Mike’s posture is slumpy. He waits for Lina with hands on hips and puku sticking out. Meanwhile Cevin is very busy and important, walking spritely and poised.
Lina’s (Monica Reid) day job is working nights at the bar while her dream job is to be an inventor. She gets caught in deliciously awkward conversations with the bros, pretending not to remember them. Fabian (Lachlan Dixon) is the bartender who doesn’t have time to listen to your life story. Despite his best efforts he becomes the confident for Lina and the bros. Hiding behind his angst and sass, Fabie is really the most rational and moral of the ensemble.
The sound cues between scenes could have come in slightly sooner to make the transitions more seamless. While chirping birds clearly indicate the night has passed, it feels out of place in a basement bar. It might not even be necessary for the play to span a few days. As a character driven piece, it would be interesting to see Two Bros* pack the wit and drama into one night.
It felt like most of the action took place stage right at Lina and Fabian’s work spot. Here the lighting was particularly dim and it was a little hard to see the actors’ expressions in the cool toned lighting. While we are in a bar, I wanted a clearer picture of Lina facing her demons and subtleties the bros would never pick up on.
The slapstick comedy was a pleasant surprise. A clever way to show the bros are more alike than not, both bros literally walk into a bar, and clumsily collapse into their chairs. The show would have benefitted from taking more risks with the slapstick comedy, however. In one scene, a boxed cake is dropped and although I couldn’t see the floor from my seat, I hoped it left a heartbreaking mess. (I once saw a girl drop a huge, uncovered caramel slice on Courtney Pace. It was so heartbreaking I think about it every three weeks.) It would be great fun to see the cast get really messy.
Although I’m not entirely convinced Mike and Cevin won’t pester another ‘Lina’ or start a pick-up artist YouTube channel, the bros did learn about another kind of love. The real will-they-won’t-they love story is their bromance. With their contrasting backgrounds, the bros have much to learn from each other about sexuality, socio-economics and how not to talk to women. And I left the bar satisfied where the two end up.
The whole cast shine with enthusiasm. For some farcical, wholesome fun, catch Two Bros* at Scotty & Mal’s Cocktail and Lounge Bar, 176 Cuba Street tonight at 6:30pm and on Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm. Book your tickets here.