BWW Review: Family, Religion and Baseball in Book-It's THE BROTHERS K, PART ONE

Trevor Cushman, Suzy Hunt, Spencer Hamp,
Christopher Morson, and Riley Shanahan in
The Brothers K, Part One from Book-It
Photo credit: Chris Bennion.

I would say that I loved every second of Book-It Repertory Theatre's current adaptation of David James Duncan's "The Brothers K, Part One: Strike Zones" if it weren't for all the damned onions someone was cutting in the theater. What? There were no onions? So then I was just repeatedly tearing up over the story? Oh, well then, I guess I can say it. Yup, with its beautiful adaptation and stunningly honest performances, I loved every second of Book-It Repertory Theatre's current adaptation of David James Duncan's "The Brothers K, Part One: Strike Zones".

Get ready for all the feels as you meet the Chance family, Hugh and Laura (Gavin Hoffman and Alexandra Tavares) and their six kids Everett, Peter, Irwin, Kincaid, Winifred and Beatrice (played in their youth by Kai Borch, Julian Mudge-Burns, Alex Silva, Caden Tate, Zoe Papadakis, and Nina Makino and in their older incarnations by Christopher Morson, Trevor Cushman, Riley Shanahan, Spencer Hamp, Rebecca Anne Love, and Annika Nori). Papa works at the paper mill and Mama takes care of the kids. But Papa used to have a promising baseball career until an accident at the mill cut off his thumb on his pitching hand. And so now life goes on but there's no end of turmoil with Papa unhappy about the path his life has taken and Mama, a devout Seventh Day Adventist, trying to keep her kids on a righteous path even though many of them are developing their own and very different ideals. And so we follow them in Part One from 1953 to 1969 from little kids to High School and College as times change and the Vietnam War approaches.

The adaptation as well as the direction from Myra Platt is sublime. Not one ounce of wasted time or space in this 3 hour and 10 minute piece. But do not let that run time dissuade you as there are two intermissions and the time flies by but how could it not with such an engaging, and well crafted piece that should resonate with anyone. I mean most of us have had a family of some sort.

Alexandra Tavares and Gavin Hoffman in
The Brothers K, Part One from Book-It
Photo credit: Chris Bennion.

The cast completely shines with one of the most real and honest emotional cores I've seen and each with their very different characters. Morson absolutely kills with his snarky rebellion. Cushman is wonderful with his thoughtful and Zen ways. Shanahan couldn't be more loveable with his blissful naiveté. And Hamp with the lion's share of the narration still exudes a complete character of the youngest brother trying to find his own way. Love and Nori only get a little bit of stage time in Part One as the young twins but still have two very different characters with Love following the more Zen and rebellious brothers and Nori desperate to please on the path her mother has chosen. And as good as all the kids are the true standouts are the powerhouses of real and honest emotion within Hoffman and Tavares as the parents. Tavares has never ceased to impress me in so many roles over the last few years and Hoffman's bio says he's making his Seattle debut and I sincerely hope this is just the beginning of amazing things we see from him. And that's just the main family. We're also blessed with Suzy Hunt as both the tough Grandawma and the eloquent Dr. Gurtzner with whom collage age Everett verbally spars. And I must mention the repeatedly hilarious comic relief from Aaron T. Moore and Evan Whitfield in multiple roles as sport announcers, small town coaches, bible thumping preachers and one deliciously foul mouthed doctor.

I could go on and on about all the incredible elements of this show but you'd be better off just going to see it. And see it you must! This will be one of those shows that everyone is talking about for years to come and if you miss out, well, you were warned. And so with my three letter rating system I give Book-It Repertory's "The Brothers K, Part One: Strike Zones" a very emotional YAY+. You may ask why the YAY+ what with me raving about this so much. Well, I'm still waiting for the ending (which honestly cannot come too soon) but they are well on their way to the ultimate rating. It's really just that good of a production, onions notwithstanding, and you should be ordering your tickets now. I said, NOW! And stay tuned for my review of Part Two next week.

The Brothers K, Part One: Strike Zones" from Book-It Repertory performs at the Center Theater through June 26th. For tickets or information contact the Book-It box office at 206-216-0833 or visit them online at www.book-it.org.

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From This Author Jay Irwin

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