Friday, May 25, 2018

“Blood Brothers” stimulates deep reflection by Elizabeth Richards

Windham Center Stage’s current production, “Blood Brothers,” isn’t what you might expect from musical theater. Far beyond light entertainment, this show inspires deep reflection on important issues: poverty and inequality, the impact of desperation, jealousy and the consequences of excruciating choices.

From the beginning it’s clear that the story is a tragedy, but the cast handles the intense themes well, scattering just enough comedic touches throughout to lighten the mood. It’s a story of twins and a mother’s desperate decision to separate them for their survival. One is raised in poverty, but with deep loving bonds; the other is raised with extreme wealth, but less emotional connections. The boys’ paths cross, then veer away, then cross again and then the two become unlikely friends, without ever knowing of their blood relationship. But circumstances and the choices they make take them in vastly different directions, culminating in a tragic end.

"Blood Brothers" is playing again this weekend.
Because the story unfolded over a time span of many years, cast members were tasked with creating convincing characters throughout several different phases in their lives – which the whole cast did convincingly.

With many central characters, it would have been easy for one to overshadow others, but this cast blended seamlessly. The stories were all intertwined, making each character an integral part of the plot – even the supporting roles. The subtle prominence of these supporting characters made the story richer and more complex than if they’d been ignored.

There were plenty of light moments interspersed throughout the show, especially in the first act when the children were young. Jon Bolduc (Mickey) and Bernie Tajonera (Edward) played the young twins with high energy and zeal, evoking the wondrous innocence of youth and making the dark turn later feel even more tragic.

With the passage of so much time, the narrator was essential to keeping the plot moving and the audience informed. Rob Hatch played this role with somber intensity, moving the story forward then fading into the background, exactly as a narrator should.

All the performers created memorable characters that came alive. Musical numbers were strong and powerful, highlighting the themes clearly. Many of the songs were haunting and thought-provoking.
In her director’s notes, Laurie Shepard wrote, “Blood Brothers illuminates the decisions we make to survive and the secrets we take to the grave. The struggles of the Johnstone twins mirror many in the communities that we make up and [are] held secret by people we encounter every day.”  This statement powerfully describes the feeling I was left with at the end of the show – a lingering desire to better understand, without judgement, the stories of those around me.

This show is intended for mature audiences, due to a lot of adult content. The show runs at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 25th, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 26th.  Tickets are $15 for adults/$10 for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased at  “Blood Brothers” is well worth the time and ticket price.

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