The Brothers Paranormal is the sort of play one doesn’t want to divulge too much about before it’s actually seen. There’s a risk of spoilers. However, Prince Gomolvilas has written one truly eerie play. What’s so extraordinary is that there are no spectacular effects such as those which benefit The Phantom of the Opera or a really successful haunted house set-up. This co-production of Penumbra Theatre and Theater Mu, modestly realized on the Penumbra stage, will likely send chills down your spine.
The Brothers Paranormal follows two ghostbusting brothers of Thai descent hired to get rid of a ghost terrorizing an African-American couple traumatized by Hurricane Katrina. Karin Olson’s lighting cross-fades with balmy fluidity as if riding between dimensions, with spectral visual jolts that inject the action brazenly at points. Scott Edwards’s sound design infuses macabre undercurrents to match.
Lou Bellamy has directed the actor portrayals with a relatedness that reaches right into the souls of the characters. Sherwin Resurreccion and Kurt Kwan compel as the two brothers clash on their approach to the business and their family history. Regina Marie Williams and James Craven portray a married couple with so much love between them, that at times it’s beautifully overwhelming. They are bonded in mutual experience and a bottomless understanding of the well of pain for what the other feels.
Also beautiful and ultimately overwhelming is Leslie Ishii as Tasanee, the brothers’ mother. The role as it is written and how it is played is miraculous. Tasanee feels profoundly incapable of adapting to American society. However, she doesn’t trumpet the usual politically correct mantras that one hears on the news ad nauseam. She shares her heart and her very specific way of how displacement has ruptured her sense of self. Tasanee has one of the greatest speeches in contemporary drama and the understated Ishii will break your heart with the delivery of it.
Michelle de Joya beguiles with a heightened physical performance as a spirit figure. Assistant Director Sun Mee Chomet and Dramaturg Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay have served as advisers for this co-production reflecting the communities representing the two theater companies. Different people will see The Brothers Paranormal in different lights, but one inherent conflict, vividly put forth, is the degree to which the truly supernatural is actually at play vs. to what degree the subconscious is at play.
The Brothers Paranormal
Through May 26
Penumbra Theatre, 270 N. Kent St., St. Paul