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‘The Best Brothers’ brings out sentiment amid absurdity

People accidentally being killed by drunk Filipino drag queens on gay pride parade floats tends to be an unconventional setup for tear-jerking drama. Though, somehow, Daniel MacIvor’s “The Best Brothers,” playing until Feb. 23 at the Bas Bleu Theatre, is able to weave this seemingly ludicrous premise into a truly touching piece of theater.

The show is a unique and eclectic mix of sentiment, absurdism and eccentricity that, despite not always landing squarely on its feet, still makes for an enjoyable hour and a half of entertainment. It’s as if Arthur Miller and Christopher Durang collaborated on a stage adaptation of “Death at a Funeral.”

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Following the tense relationship between brothers Kyle and Hamilton Best as they navigate the sorrow and confusion of their dog-loving mother’s unexpected death (a result of the aforementioned mishap with the Filipino drag queen), the play is a light but nonetheless heartfelt examination of grief.

Complete with funky characters and snappy dialogue, this show contains one of the most memorable eulogies since Matthew Macfadyen’s teary-eyed speech in “Death at a Funeral.” It’s perhaps even more memorable, as this one ends with someone getting strangled.

What really make the show soar, however, are the performances given by leading actors Jeffrey Bigger and Kevin Crowe in the roles of the two brothers. The actors display a remarkable chemistry that allows them to maintain the audience’s attention throughout the show, despite being the only two characters on stage.

There is also a clear sense of commitment to their characters, with every action, every hand gesture and every movement being carried out with purpose. This creates an equally harmonious and hilarious dynamic between the two of them, and it roots the story’s often meandering tone in stable and consistent character choices.

More information on “The Best Brothers” can be found on Bas Bleu’s website.

While the play itself isn’t airtight and sometimes struggles to effectively and organically balance comedy with some of its deeper, more dramatic themes, it’s nonetheless speckled with fun, whacky moments that imbue it with a distinct liveliness and energy.

The most notable of these moments is a series of monologues delivered at various interludes throughout the show by the two sons — acting as their mother, adorned in dainty white gloves, a bedazzled cap and a pair of extra large round Coke bottle glasses — recounting the matriarch’s wild, sometimes drug-induced misadventures throughout her life. There’s also the aforementioned eulogy, where a misremembered story involving an Orange Crush soda devolves into a full-on cat fight in the middle of friends and family members.

While the bulk of the show plays out as a fairly traditional, cut and dried family drama, these kinds of unexpected moments give it a freshness that one doesn’t often find in shows of its type.

Frequently, family dramas like this one are reduced to simplistic, sentimental plotlines with maybe one or two jokes thrown in the mix so that the audience doesn’t feel like they’re trying to be too melodramatic.

However, the very grounded, realist plot is spiced up with a healthy dose of surrealism, which keeps the audience engaged and on their toes and gives the show a light, mystical quality.

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Despite the text’s sometimes inconsistent tone, the energy and commitment displayed by the show’s remarkable cast and crew make “The Best Brothers” a unique and enjoyable experience.

Scotty Powell can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @scottysseus.

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