Brendan O’Connell creates a memoir after the death of his friend. It’s a surprisingly funny show that nevertheless perfectly captures the permanence of grief. As he says at one point, “There is no day off.” O’Connell also directs and plays the main character Beej, a student and aspiring stand-up comedian. Johnny’s ghost (Ryan O’Connell) visits him and the actor’s frenetic energy keeps the humor going even through the hard moments. The play begins as Beej writes a eulogy and Johnny chimes in. His roommate Schwartzman (Max Schneiderman) and Schwartzman’s girlfriend Flaquita (Kate Edwards) provide a tether to the real world along with Rafi and Brewster (Javier del Pilar and Matt Dyer), living the alcohol fueled life that Johnny and Beej were before tragedy struck.
del Pilar also designed the set that conjures a guys bedroom in his 20s perfectly with a minimal set with a laundry basket and air mattress and ubiquitous bottles. Sean Forsythe designed the lights and did a lot with the venue Redrum, especially as Beej gets back in a car. Guitarist Stephen Magliaro gives the play a cinematic feel with a haunting live soundtrack.
It is hard to treat as a piece of fiction; O’Connell’s honesty and vulnerability onstage is impressive and raw as we follow the Beej from the first days after the funeral and a surprise trip to Paris which gives it the French flair to every day life, struggling to find meaning and just missing his friend. It sometimes feels a bit more like a therapy session than a dramatic piece, but he does have an unusual take on the usual platitudes as he tries to keep it together. In all, it is a solid show – filled with some unexpected humor and an honest journey through grief.
Running Time: 65 minutes, with no intermission.
À Demain plays through July 25, 2014 at Redrum, 612 L Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For performance times and to purchase tickets, please visit their Capital Fringe page.