Review: “The Brutes” at New Ohio Theatre

Colt W. Keeney, kneeling, and JD Martin in “The Brutes” at the New Ohio Theatre in Manhattan.CreditCreditCaitlin Ochs for The New York Times

Colt W. Keeney, kneeling, and JD Martin in “The Brutes” at the New Ohio Theatre in Manhattan.CreditCreditCaitlin Ochs for The New York Times

Anthony J. Piccione

  • New York Critic

In their mission statement, the independent theatre company spit&vigor describes themselves as being dedicated to producing works that are both “spirited” and “innovative”. Indeed, this troupe of performers does come off as spirited, and there’s a fair amount of talent and energy to be seen. However, a better word to describe the play they’ve selected for production – The Brutes by Casey Wimpee – feels less innovative and more middling than anything else.

Staged at the New Ohio Theatre as part of their hosting program, the show isn’t one that I’d describe as necessarily bad, but the writing mostly left me thinking that more development was needed before it was ready for a full production. Aside from a chuckle here and there, most of the humor did not seem to land with the audience, and it’s unclear why the playwright chose to write this play, or what the people producing it are trying to do, in terms of making people either think or even be entertained. The actors seem to try and make the most of the script they are given, but unfortunately, that’s not enough to make this play or its characters even slightly interesting.

While more was desired, in terms of the writing, that’s not to say the same of the show’s production value. The costumes, designed by actor/director Sara Fellini, perfectly capture the 19th century atmosphere of the play’s time period, while the lighting design of Chelsie McPhimily captures the tone of each scene wonderfully, particularly toward the climax of the play. While the tech elements are far from the most impressive I’ve seen, it’s nonetheless one of the better indie productions I’ve recently seen, in this regard.

As someone who was previously unfamiliar with this company before, I was left with the impression that this is a group that’s perfectly capable of bringing to life engaging, visually stunning productions. My advice, however, would to be take into further consideration the quality of the scripts they’re producing, going forward, so they are up to the same quality standards that the rest of the production itself would suggest.

 

THE BRUTES

 “The Brutes” stars Sara Fellini, Adam Belvo, Colt W. Keeney, JD Martin, Morgan Zipf-Meister, Xandra Leigh Parker, Harlan Short, Nicholas Thomas, Eamon Murphy, Becca Musser, Pete Oliver, and Perri Yaniv.

“The Brutes” is written by Casey Wimpee and directed by Sara Fellini, featuring lighting design by Chelsie McPhimily, fight choreography by Adam Belvo and Becca Musser, costume and prop design by Sara Fellini with assistance from Xandra Leigh Parker, stage manager Emma Frances Philipbar, and press representation from Jay Michaels Arts and Entertainment.

“The Brutes” – presented by spit&vigor – runs at the New Ohio Theatre from November 23rd-December 9th. For more information, please visit www.spitnvigor.com.