A Review of the Brelby Theatre Company’s World Premiere ‘unexpected’

Brelby Theatre Company’s newest world premiere, ‘unexpected,’ written by local artist John Perovich and directed by Gerald Thomson, is exactly what the title implies. The show is filled with whimsical playfulness, energetic characters, and hilarious surprises. However, it is also strewn with deep family conflict, the hanging balance between life and death, and battles for love.

On their Facebook page, Brelby describes the premise of Perovich’s work.

“In a village by the sea, an overprotective mother struggles to keep her three daughters from ever falling in love. The mother’s wishes are met with resistance when a mysterious merchant washes ashore. Love is in the air as each person struggles to listen to the love in their heart. unexpected is a comedy about curiosity, disobedience, honesty, and family—the one we have and the one we choose.”

As artistic director Shelby Maticic mentions in the world premiere’s program, “This play explores love and the various forms it can take… new, exciting, unrequited, confusing, and more. The cast and production team of ‘unexpected’ have worked tirelessly to bring an entirely new fairytale to life.”

My Personal Summary (gives a little more insight)

Three daughters, the obedient eldest Emma, curious middle child Penelope, and defiant/passionate youngest child Phoebe, live with their controlling mother Ann. Believing that love does nothing but cause pain and suffering, Ann forbids her daughters to fall in love and be taken away from her and the only love they need, a mother’s love. However, when a wise merchant, a lovestruck neighbor boy, a mischievous childhood friend, and a mysterious man with wings all find their way into the girls’ lives, everything gets turned upside down… and the unexpected happens.

The Characters

Merchant- A wise and mysterious old man, played by Cliff Williams, is the narrator-like character of this cooky love story. He seems to understand the bigger picture more than anyone else, but his own personal scars tied in with the story apparent as well. Throughout the show Williams effortlessly became a trusted figure not only to the characters in ‘unexpected,’ but to the audience as well.

Emma- As I have seen in the past, Mia Passerella has a knack for playing the refined sister. Emma is the responsible, somewhat brow- nosing eldest daughter. She lives life by her mother’s rules… except for when all eyes are finally off her.

Penelope- I was smitten with Anabel Olguin’s portrayal of the playful and imaginative middle sister Penelope. She was as cute as a button, and was able to translate her whimsical passion and childlike curiosity on stage well.

Phoebe- Bertha Cortez plays the youngest, Phoebe. As most babies of the family are, Phoebe is courageous and little defiant of her mother’s wishes. This character is a silent dreamer who wants nothing more than a love of her own, and Cortez’s subtle looks of yearning were able to translate those feeling over well to the audience.

Ann- Carolyn McBurney was tasked with playing the deranged and overprotective mother Ann. This character was written almost a little too psychotic for my personal taste, making her appearances exhausting for the audience. However, I will say that McBurney’s ability to switch instantaneously between such drastic emotions was extremely impressive to observe.

Taylor- Taylor, played by the hilarious Devon Mahon is, fittingly so, the comic relief of the show. This young boy is passionate about everything, whether that’s being in love, being heart broken, or being a straight up drama queen.

Olivia- This mischievous character is one of the oddballs of the show. Olivia, played by Marina Sharpe, is a snake-obsessed, adventurous, long-time friend of Emma’s. She is the only character that sings in the show as well, adding a lovely feminine touch to the dark love story.

Connor- The second oddball of the story is Connor, played by Jonathan Gradilla. This character spends a good chunk of the show as the “mysterious man with wings.” However, his overall role in the show is definitely a large chunk of what makes ‘unexpected’ so darn unexpected.

My Thoughts

I know it is almost redundant to say it again, but this show really was chock-full of unexpected happenings. It started out somewhat simple, and then unraveled into a web of interlacing stories all going in their own different directions… while eventually meeting at the same destination. Without the merchant character acting as the narrator and mediator of it all, I am afraid part of the story may have been lost on audience members. To be honest, I still walked out of the theater filled with different questions, many pertaining to details of the magical world surrounding our characters.

What I personally appreciated the most was when certain characters broke the fourth wall and spoke directly to the audience. This type of audience inclusion is one way that always grabs my attention and deeply holds onto it.

To keep myself from giving any spoilers away about the show, I will finish in saying that ‘unexpected’ is a whimsical ride of emotions that will most certainly keep you engaged. A little bizarre and all-over-the-place at times, sure, but definitely engaging throughout.

You can catch the remaining performances  of ‘unexpected’ May 26th-27th, June 2nd-3rd, and June 9th-10th at 7:30pm, that on May 21st, 28th, and June 4th at 2:00pm. You can purchase tickets here! Enjoy the magical rollercoaster ride my friends.