Theater: “Wet Brain” @ Playwrights Horizons
It may be sheer coincidence, but last night’s production of John J. Caswell’s “Wet Brain” (Playwrights Horizon) bore a marked similarity to the Max series “Succession”. As well as some notable differences.
The three siblings in the TV series and their domineering father share a lust for money and power. The three siblings in the play had a domineering father, too. Although the only thing they share with their dad is a problem with substance abuse.
Ricky (Arturo Luis Soria), the youngest gay son who lives in New York, comes home to the family’s broken down house in Phoenix to find his father (Julio Monte) walking around in an alcoholic stupor. Turns out his sister Angelina (Ceci Fernandez) has basically given up on Dad and lets him guzzle vodka day and night (although she herself is on the wagon.) The older brother Ron (Frankie J. Alvarez) is a macho homophobe who’s such an alcoholic, he stashed cold beer in the toilet.
Can this family be saved? A group visit to the roof of the house may provide the answer, as Dad, suddenly coherent, explains that he may have been beamed up into outer space years back. A somewhat ridiculous plot point, but then, in one of the most creative moments of stagecraft in recent memory, all three are beamed up into a spaceship of sorts, where they have a heart-to-heart and learn the truth about the death of their mother (Florencio Lozano).
So you may ask: what exactly is “wet brain?” When someone drinks large amounts of alcohol over a long period of time, they can experience a form of permanent brain damage called wet brain. Just like the dad in this play.
A story about substance abuse is nothing new or especially funny. But the superb acting by an all-Latino cast and the foul-mouthed comic writing make “Wet Brain” LOL-funny and enjoyable. It also demonstrates that unlike the Roys in “Succession,” you don’t have to be bazillionaires to be tortured by your crazy family.