BWW Review: DEPEND ON ME at Brelby
Brian Maticic is a maniac. He's got a full time job teaching math and theatre, he's executive director and the secret tech director at Brelby (which he founded with his wife, Shelby) and he wrote, directed and designed the world premiere of his new work, Depend on Me, which opened Friday. And, by the way, Shelby gave birth to their first child two weeks ago. So Maticic did all this and tech week with a newborn at home. Granted, he's young. But, seriously.
Depend on Me feels like a sitcom filmed before a live audience, until just before intermission, when it takes a turn and feels like late M*A*S*H, when they dropped the laugh track and things got dark. There's a surprise ending and much entertainment in the two-act play.
Maticic is a terrific director. The pace of the show never lags, and the staging is great. He uses a fluid style with actors entering and exiting in unpredictable, unconventional ways. He keeps the actors buoyed up and light, so their acting isn't particularly grounded until things get weird later in the piece. Maticic's set is delightful - an apartment and a restaurant and a bar at various times and in multifarious combinations. Much of the scenery is painted in that whimsical, theatre dry-brush style that reminds us it's always a play.
Not given credit in the program - a GROSS ommission! - is Rumor, the Brelby company dog, who plays a vital role with the kind of understated elegance one hasn't seen since Grace Kelly in The Swan.
Melody Chrispen plays Celia, a semi-agoraphobic young woman who takes on a new roommate at the top of the show. Chrispen is a very good actor. Her initial awkwardness and superficiality make sense as we get deeper into the story and realize how messed up is this person. When it's time, Chrispen goes quickly to deep, dark places with grace, even when it's emotionally thorny and brutally uncomfortable.
As the new roommate, Monica, Samantha-Elise Tennant is a little firecracker - we never fully get her into focus. She's always moving, even when sitting still. Her role calls for a lot of forced emotion, and she powers through it, which is no small feat.
As Monica's love-interest, Devon Mahon is both powerful and fragile, and profoundly engaging. We never want him to leave the stage.
Wendy Warwick White (British, if the name wasn't a dead giveaway) is captivating as the sitcom essential - the zany neighbor. White is small in stature, but big in talent and energy. She is wildly entertaining and commands every scene in which she appears.
As Monica's father, Brady Anderson is far too young for the role, but transformed with gray hair and character makeup. He has created a quirky, odd-duck of an old guy who lives in Sun City. He, like his daughter, seems to always be in motion, even when he's not moving. The biologically related characters come off as genuinely so, which is an intriguing feature of the production.
Depend on Me boasts a marvelous sound design by theatre cognoscenti, John Perovich.
Depend on Me continues October 13-14, 20-21, 27-28 at 7:30pm, and October 15, and 22 at 2:00pm. Tickets are available by visiting the official web site. General admission is $25 per performance. Admission to Depend on Me is included in the benefits of Brelby's ShowGO subscription. The Brelby Playhouse is located at 7154 N 58th Dr, Glendale, AZ 85301.