Review: BRUNCH WITH THE BOYS at DCJCC Theatre J

The production runs for 4 more performances as part of the 2023 Capital Fringe Festival.

By: Jul. 15, 2023
Review: BRUNCH WITH THE BOYS at DCJCC Theatre J
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The hallowed tradition of Sunday Brunch plays out as a beloved campy, caustic yet collegial celebration of LGBTQ camaraderie in the comic chamber opera Brunch with the Boys –now an enjoyably disarming offering of the 2023 Capital Fringe Festival.  This production offers a playful mixture of music, libretto and characterizations presented in a light and somewhat interactive theatrical format.

The very ambitious and ear-entrancing music by Sean Pflueger was adventurous in scope and sound ---evoking a musical myriad of moods that careens from angst-ridden to sensual to joyful in feeling.  The operatic sensibility is purposeful yet frothy and teasing in tone as befits this small cast of five friends who share Sunday Brunch while a philosophical waitress/waiter supplies drinks and “diva-esque” witty repartee.

Pflueger’s work was alternately hopeful, variegated and wistfully arresting and highly original (yet, indeed, the spirit of the composer William Finn hovers in its iconoclastic moments---this is intended as a compliment).

The Libretto by Michael Vegas Mussman is quirky, earthy and evocative of the cozy yet cutting camaraderie that many gay men exhibit with one another as they try to escape the constraints of straight society for brief moments of celebration—as is so evident in the tradition of Sunday Brunch.  A small screen with surtitles aided immeasurably in the sheer flow of the often idiosyncratic yet compelling libretto.

An interesting and interactive theatrical concept of the production was to place the marvelous six-piece orchestra directly on stage right of the stage left “Sunday Brunch habitués”.  This directorial approach created a very interactive feel to the production as did the Lighting choices by Ash Arnold –such as  the use of  bumping the house lights up for certain theatrical effects.

The orchestra members all played with consummate skill under the direction of Conductor Aurelio Dominguez. Piano by Brad Rinaldo and Clarinet by Kyle Glasglow were particularly engaging but all were impressive. (Amir Norouznasseri on Violin, Daphine Henderson on Bass, Omar Martinez on Bass and Kris Taylor on Trumpet).

Ensemble scenes and corresponding operatic moments were effective but the operatic solo turns were the most captivating aspects of this chamber opera. The solo turns aided mightily in conveying the gradations of each character in the opera as well as showcasing the individual singing styles of some very fine vocalists.

Alex Bodenham’s lustrous tenor tellingly conveyed the travails of being late for lunch due to casual sex encounters.  Bodenham sang lustily of his love life.

Daniel Sherwood as the hard-working character, Adam, sang in his commanding baritone of his travails while working so hard with “no rest for the weary”. Sherwood showed the pride yet weariness inherent in his character.

Case Hope’s portrayal of “Benny” ---the young kept-“twink” of the group was precisely on key as to vocals and the very apt portrayal of the “come hither” promiscuous young lad. Mr. Hope’s lithe physicality served him well in this role as he sang with an engaging tenor voice.

Ben Clark as the very confident “ Bear” Joe sang with confidence and gusto as he performed with a defiantly upbeat and sassy edge.

Miss Kitty ----the “diva-esque” waitress/waiter with “street smarts” and hard-crusted common sense performed with a visceral and audacious style. Miss Kitty was sort of the “emcee’ or “host” of the proceedings and possessed a thorough command of the stage space.

Composer Sean Pflueger also played the role of the taciturn and “love-shy” Thom with an entrancing and totally absorbing Bass-baritone  voice. Mr. Pflueger’s character was interesting as he finally accepted letting love into his life.

The costumes are colorful and appropriate to the feel of the production.

The repeated and insistent refrain “Sunday” grabbed my attention as did the closing lines that alluded to the fact that ---Life is short and you can’t wait for love.

Brunch with the Boys is an ambitious exploration of the universal need for the LGBTQ community to share with one another.  Be sure to have “Brunch with the Boys” for an operatic feast of wit and LQBTQ pride.

Running Time: One Hour

Brunch with the Boys was presented on July 13, 2023 as part of the 2023 Capital Fringe Festival at the DCJCC Theatre J located at 1529 16th Street MW, Washington, DC 20036. Future performances are on July 19 at 6pm, July 21 at 8pm, July 22 at 1pm and July 23 at 11:15am.  For tickets go to: https://capitalfringe.org/

Photo by Douglas Maryott




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