note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Richard Pacheco
“Arnie, Louis and Bob” currently at Trinity Rep is a world premiere by Katie Pearl who take something that would have been perfect fodder for someone like Pinter or Durang or Ives and turns it into something that is flooded with gimmicks and grows more and more pretentious and willful as it goes on. The tale of two brothers and a cousin, all of whom are eccentric and massively dysfunctional veers from amusing to indulgent playwrighting.
It all goes awry when in the first act playwright Pearl rises to regale the cast about the goings on it is clear it is about to take a wrong turn. It is suddenly self indulgent and pretentious.
The three men live in their dead mother’s home and are wildly eccentric, each with their own foibles and quirks. Arnie dedicatedly follows an Indian guru while pursuing his lawn cutting business. And Bob drives a Zamboni for a living while dreaming of a better life and meeting pop stars and finally there is Louis who fights an often losing battle with depression while struggling with his autobiographical novel.
The play was conceived when Perl was a graduate student at Brown and convinced the artistic director Curt Columbus to develop the play at Trinity through workshops leading to this production. Pearl has been thus far in her career a highly experimental playwright. This play is no exception. She lets her imagination run amuck here with the uncles meeting Peter Pan and Taylor Swift. What happens is it goes far off course with Pearl becoming a big part of the play often setting new directions for it mid stride. It ends up too fantastical with little tether to reality and unfocussed and random. She consonantly regales the stage hand who also takes part to “listen to the characters” advice which Pearl ends up avoiding regularly while pursuing her own fantasy indulgences amidst the cravings of her characters. Yes, it is about growing older, trying to find a mate and putting up with your relatives.
It draws from the best of Trinity’s talent, Timothy Crowe, Stephen Berenson and Brian McEleney who area all delightful in their respective roles. IT also incorporates playwright Pearl who intrudes and redirects the action through out from her first appearance and stage hand Julia Atwood who also turns out to be a talent and amusing as she goes from playing Peter Pan to Taylor Swift with skill and dexterity.
The first act offers plenty of promise and hints of richness, but the second act goes totally off track with its fantasy laden quirks like Bob after an encounter with Peter Pan floating off through the window never to be seen again. There is much potential here but largely unresolved.
Director Melissa Kievman who developed it as well as directed it needs to help the playwright clen of the self indulgent aspects which overwhelm the play at nearly every turn from when the playwright steps onstage,.
The set by MichaelMcGarty is insanely cluttered and overdone with too much visual clutter all over and making it at times hard to focus with a sensory overload.