Hello | Brother is the stuff Fringe dreams are made of. An evening of two bold and experimental short plays, writer/director solomon HaileSelassie takes a risk and succeeds with flying colors.
The two plays Hello and Brother are not directly related, but instead work in concert with one another: using two very different worlds to explore similar themes of loneliness and human connection. Both are expertly directed and well acted.
HaileSelassie does not spoon feed the audience with his poetic language. Instead he allows them to feel some discomfort, revealing new information slowly, inviting them to puzzle over what they are experiencing. He does not shy away from long silences and surprising turns. I am reminded a bit of Samuel Beckett.
In Hello, lights rise on Celine (Karen V. Lawrence) riding an elevator up and down between various floors. She seems unable to leave, and becomes increasingly distraught as she pushes the button to close the doors and move on again. Projections and sound recordings alert to us to which floor we have arrived. Just as her frenzy is about to reach a breaking point, Delvin (Matt Meyers), a blind, snappily dressed British man enters the elevator. He senses Celine’s distress and eventually coaxes her into conversation. She reveals the terrible source of her anxiety and her grim plan to solve it.
Much like blind Tiresias of Greek mythology, who often “saw” far better than his contemporaries, Delvin offers anecdotes and advice. Both caged together in the small space of the elevator: it is a fascinating discussion on the nature of humanity, divinity, and who controls your path. Lawrence is deeply moving in her strained tension and immobility as Celine, and Meyers is enchanting as the confident, effervescent Delvin.
Hello | Brother
Produced by Annexus Theatre Company
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Brother is the more absurdist of the two. Like an abstract painting, it leaves the audience to fill in the blanks and come to their own conclusions. This play’s action is contained within a different box: a room without windows or doors. Michael (Jonathan Miot) wakes to find himself trapped there with only a man in astronaut suit (Matt Meyers) lying unresponsive on a table. He has no recollection of why or how he came to be there. Extremely loud death metal music plays at random as a form of torture for both Michael and the audience. Projections tell us the number of days slowly ticking by. While he waits, Michael often talks to the still, silent astronaut, telling jokes, making numerous pop culture references, and puzzling through big life questions. Miot is captivating as Michael, deftly filling long stretches of silence with his effortless, expressive physicality. The surprising ending sequence set to original music by Wax Fang, leaves many questions of reality and humanity that audiences will continue to mull over long after they’ve left the theatre.
Technical elements are kept to a minimum, but we never feel that the piece would have benefitted from more time or resources, as is so often the case at Fringe.
While perhaps not for those looking for a more traditional experience, Hello | Brother is well acted and professionally produced. And in my opinion, it’s what Fringe is truly meant to be. Go see it.
Hello | Brother . Written and Directed by Solomon HaileSelassie. Featuring: Karen V. Lawrence, Matt Meyers, and Jonathan Miot. Stage Manager: Katie Bucher. Assistant Stage Manager: Heather Godwin. Produced by Annexus Theatre Company . Reviewed by Sarah Scafidi.