Victory Gardens presents
A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED
At Biograph Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue
Written by Joel Drake Johnson
Directed by Sandy Shinner
Thru August 15th
Running Time: Two and a half hours includes delayed start and fifteen minute intermission.
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
An alcoholic, drug addict is released after serving five years for attempted murder. How to go home if there is no home to go to? This is no “hundred yellow ribbons around the old oak tree” story. Victory Gardens presents the world premiere of A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED. A sober and reformed Doug accepts his sister’s invitation for refuge. The problem is she’s in New York on business. So, Doug is welcomed home by his rule-obsessed, romance-novel reading brother-in-law Philip and his rebelling, fish killing, genius nephew Andrew. All three guys are trying to coexist in the absence of their female connector. The interaction is perplexing, awkward, and hilarious. Playwright Joel Drake Johnson has thrown together a peculiar trio for a bro-mantic tale of redemption.
Under the masterful direction of Sandy Shinner, every potential comedic moment is actualized. Shinner goes verbal and physical by pacing a scene of Johnson one liners with rapid fire hilarity and then slowing it down with an over-the-top deliberate bed making exercise. Francis Guinan (Philip) delivers his obsessive fixations with a dry matter-of-fact cadence. Whether he’s describing how to not kill the fish or the paprika in his homemade mayo, Guinan presents as a remorseful, lonely caretaker. His interactions with Kevin Anderson (Doug) are some of the most vulnerably sweet and neurotically hysterical. Bubba Weiler (Andrew) is a quirky teenager in angst over being bullied at school. Weiler plays up his oddity with a hovering intense presence. Weiler’s infatuation to the convict uncle is endearing and bewildering. At the epicenter of the unexpected hero worshipping, Kevin Anderson (Doug) is mystified by the attention. Anderson plays it real with abrupt moments of rage mixed in with fear. Anderson continuously resists becoming the assigned guide for the perplexed household.
Joel Drake Johnson has written a story begging for a sequel or a television series. What happens to this bromance once the sister/wife/mother returns to the testosterone charged nest? It’s a house of likable, messed-up guys trying to survive. For the homey setting, Jeff Bauer has created a spinning suburban oasis. Set in a wooded diorama, a modern house rotates to feature action in the den or patio. It’s a luxurious haven for the internal chaos. A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED is a play for the amused.
Perplexed over wanting more Guinan-Anderson interaction, Tom describes the show with “broken men bond.”
Production photos courtesy of Liz Lauren.