It's difficult to know what to think about No Name Players' latest production, Chicago-based, Pittsburgh-born playwright Scott T. Barsotti's tragi-comedy Brewed. No Name is, in my opinion, one of Pittsburgh's little theatrical jewels, and even when I haven't liked what the troupe was presenting, at least I "got" it. And a few years ago, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Co. produced Barsotti's The Revenants, a play I really enjoyed. But I'm utterly flummoxed by Brewed — either me or this play is completely nuts.
There are these six sisters living in some remote place who spend their lives doing two things: Each sister has her own decorated spoon, and all day/every day each takes a turn stirring a big pot. (Didn't they ever hear of a stand mixer?) The other thing they do is fight. (It looks so benign written down like that.) They fight without cease, without variation and without reason. They fight because they despise each other, they fight because they hate themselves, they fight because they hate their world, because they hate the world. They fight because three lines of dialogue have passed without anyone having fought. Just to make sure everyone has stayed awake, every 10 minutes or so these verbal attacks give way to physical battles, with heads and bodies slammed into walls, benches and floors. A quick dust-off follows, and then they're back on their feet where they left off, yelling.
It's important you understand this isn't an exaggeration. The entire first act is a long, tedious stream of fury, and at no point does Barsotti attempt to explain any of it. Whatever skill he has as a playwright he uses to create a live studio-wrestling episode … with chicks!
It seems unlikely to me that director Steve Wilson has brought about an act with no build, structure or dramatic spine. Two years ago, Wilson directed No Name's luminous production of Oedipus and the Foul Mess at Thebes, so I know he has the chops. And again, I really, really liked Barsotti's The Revenants. What or whoever the cause, this is one shapeless evening.
The second act brings more shrieking and body-slamming. Here Barsotti finally introduces plot and exposition, but it's as nonsensical as it is tardy. Things happen because … well, just because they do, and seemingly merely to further Barsotti's tiresome one-note aggression.
Taking all of that into consideration, you probably shouldn't be too surprised to hear that the cast seems as at-sea as me. All they're given to play is shrill and ugly anger, which they certainly do with an enormous amount of energy. Siovhan Christensen manages to take advantage of a few quiet moments to introduce some subtlety and shading, but ultimately she get's mowed down by the play/production.
Sometimes, in the theater, no matter what you do, bad things happen to good people. Here's hoping for better luck next time.