Review: Brelby's Allegiance to THE PLEDGE Yields Magical Results
Megan O'Connor's The Pledge is a startlingly clever new play that opened last Friday at Historic Downtown Glendale's Brelby Theatre Company.
This review is going to sound weird, but there's no getting around it. The play is about illusionism - sleight of hand, "misdirection," beguilement - good old fashioned magic. As such, its secrets can't be told. More precisely, its truths can't be revealed without - literally - spoiling the whole thing. Thus - the weird review.
Directed by Brelby co-founder Brian Maticic, the production unfolds in two crisp acts that blaze through time and space and entirely upend their own premise, leaving the witness dizzy and somewhere between sobs and incredulous shock.
At the center of the excellent production is Jen Gantwerker as Natty, a "magician's wife" and pastry chef. Gantwerker is wicked smart, enormously talented, and plays the hell out of her sharply written, complicated role.
Clayton Caufman's David is both frustrating and endearing. An emerging magician, David is all over the map psychologically and seems emotionally at once conflicted and detached.
During an impressive magical card trick, Caufman asks for a volunteer from the audience. The play suddenly becomes a traditional magic show. At the performance this writer attended, a tall, striking woman stepped out of the house and onto the stage. It was hard to believe she wasn't rehearsed, so poised was she. I learned at intermission that she's Shandi Ilyse, a theatre artist who has performed on Brelby's stage. You won't get to see her in The Pledge, but the trick is great fun and that moment will be informed by whomever is that "actor" who goes there with Caufman's David.
Alex Tuchi, always interesting and unpredictable, playfully and sometimes angrily renders a rather labyrinthine barista. Willa Eigo and Jessie Tully play characters I can't actually talk about without giving away magician's secrets. The same goes for James Beneze's character or characters - you have to see the show to decide what it is he's doing, and even then - good luck. What I can tell you is that Eigo, Tully and Beneze are talented, strong and entertaining. Katelyn Landaal makes her stage debut in a bit part that puts the whole thing in perspective - if there is such a thing in a work as disorienting as is The Pledge.
Brian Maticic's nimble staging is unselfconscious, clean and economic. There's nothing sloppy or superfluous about any moment in the production. The set, lights, costumes, hair/makeup, sound and even the building's constantly humming fans/air conditioning all feel concomitant - even we, sitting in the audience, have a feeling we were part of the design.
I expect we'll hear more from Megan O'Connor and her most impressive first full-length play. Huge respect and gratitude go to Brelby for their commitment to their artists and to original, new work.
If you're smart, you'll get your tickets asap, because The Pledge runs only through July 1. Tickets and information can be obtained at Brelby.com.