A blue binder lay before me. Naturally, I open it. Therein contained lies A Passion for Brandy, a new play by a New Yorker named Mark Eisman. From the first two lines I devise its purpose as a sadly lighthearted melodramatic comedy. This is given away by fluid and short one sentence lines. About once every page and a half there is a half shrimp paragraph. I.e., counting from the first page: twelve lines and then a three line paragraph; nineteen lines then a two liner; one line and then another two liner; eleven lines one two-line; thirteen lines then a three line paragraph; nine lines and another three liner, etcetera. I’ve never been to a vet that only spoke one line at a time, I rarely do either. This isn’t conversation but trading. The binder is no longer blue but instead the color of sitcom. I smell quips. I press on.
In reading it I find that it is miraculously devoid of sex, drugs, violence, and anything remotely religious, inflammatory, controversial, or useful. It uses as its base of plot a ‘wry’ commentary on the consumer society in the form of ‘Departures’, a semi-civil service psychological fast-food joint which counsels people going through a hard breakup. This is set off by an adorable attachment between a man and a dog. This is the idea, this is the setting. Of course the unsurprisingly gendered lady behind the I’m sure minimalistic grayish corporation looking counter is snippy in that oh so professional scripted personal interaction way made so popular by all those funny British sitcoms in the nineties. Cold professionalism with that slightly warm heart beneath, which is just so charming and witty to point out. Of course this character seems to bleed into and become every other character in the play except for Symon with a ‘Y’ no doubt, who is our whiny and emotionally confused protagonist. Of course, I’ve never been to New York, maybe that is what it’s like. So, with one witty quip after another, through dialogue both superficial and unreal, we go a bouncing into a six degrees of separation group of people and their revealing (oh oui oui) and clever experiences surrounding this all too modern bastion and example of emotional capitalism, Departures. We discussed in class a lack of depth in these characters, here is the explanation; The author didn’t feel a need to add depth, because for him it was already there, he’d seen them on TV. These are modern archetypes only seeming as original characters from their environmental and idiomatic positionings. But I can’t really blame him for that. Everybody does that, even real people to themselves.
We get a love quadrangle for Christmas, triangles being overdone and out of stock. We are presented with, starting at Symon, his current lover-not-really, Celia, who was his dead lover’s best friend, the dead lover being a psychological factor in the relationship with the fourth lover, the dog, Brandy, who had belonged to the dead lover in her life. So Symon and Celia, lover number one, are breaking up, and the dog, lover number four, is in play. This is what brings Symon to departures. Celia is keeping Brandy, and allowing no visitation rights. Now we have a setting and a movement. To bring in drama, the dog starts dying of the same type of disease that killed lover number three, Ann. Kidney junk, possibly brought on by useless medicine given to the dog by the, you guessed it, side plot female, the vet’s wife, who also just happens to be visiting Departures to deal with her unhappy marriage to the vet. This play has as many coincidences as a bad Roman rip off of a bad Greek comedy. You see, the vet’s not such a good husband and his wife suffers and hates being a vet and possibly prescribed Brandy medicine he didn’t need, destroying his kidneys, and we learn this all because yes of course the vet’s wife is a patron of Departures. Insert hour of witty dialogue and circumstance here. Dog dies, Symon and Celia are released from one another, vet’s wife quits being a vet and starts working at Departures, the original lady leaving to get married. Who cares about the vet? Ha. Ha. This play is useless, except possibly as a practice vehicle for college students. It says nothing, save possibly that relationships are confusing, wow, yet keeps your attention in the same charming way as a sitcom. The guy should write for TV. There is no excuse for this to be on a stage. The stage only makes it a play, rather than a TV show.
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