Neglect. Abuse. Power. Codependency. Victimization. Guilt. The longing for forgiveness. The urge to take care of damaged goods. Redemption.
These core themes seem engrained in Jeremy Menekseoglu’s plays. I say this after having seen one other work of his, The Samaritan Syndrome, a few months ago — also produced by the newish Brikenbrak Theatre Project and directed by Paul Cosca.
While Syndrome was more of a puzzling conversation piece, Alligator feels like a more developed play, with a quartet of characters who are all damaged goods. But none are more damaged than Velvet, played by the raw Claire Kander, who is going through some pretty dark stuff. Borderline psychotic but with a heart of gold, she accidentally meets a sweet guy at the grocery store (Michael Plummer) and he’s smitten. But before the relationship can flourish, Velvet’s hot-headed brother (Graham Collins Jenkins) and pushy sister-in-law (Jessica London Shields) swoop in to take Velvet to a mental hospital. Along the way, we learn through a series of nightmarish hallucinations who Velvet is what occurred in her past to poison her.
Nothing about this one act play is pretty or easy. There’s lots of yelling (perhaps too much) and the subject matter is disturbing. And I did have a few qualms. The hopeful ending seems forced, some key moments are rushed through and Cosca could tighten up the staging so the numerous snippets of scenes aren’t so reliant on transitional blackouts. But this is rather intense stuff that the young cast rips into with emotion, grit and power.
Brikenbrak’s next offering is Bash by Neil LaBute. (Apparently we won’t be seeing a musical comedy from this group any time soon.)
“Alligator” runs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8pm and Fridays and Saturdays at 10:30pm at Dream Theatre Company (556 W. 18th St.) through August 14th.