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THEATER REVIEW: “Brilliant Mistake” makes world premiere in Carlsbad

New Village Arts Theatre concludes its 11th season, an “Ensemble Project” year, with the world premiere of Suzanne Bachner’s “Brilliant Mistake,” written specifically for this group of actors.

Bachner also directs this sprawling comedy, which plays through June 24 and gives 15 ensemble members (some not usually onstage) a chance to shine.

As playwright, Bachner’s approach was to interview each actor to learn a little personal and performance history; then to fashion character for each, and finally to concoct a story to connect them all.

The end product is a first-act series of funny vignettes, each featuring two or three actors playing quirky characters, followed by a too-long second act that makes them intersect. The setting ranges from New York City to Trenton to Carlsbad and other North County locations.

The central character is autobiographical graphic novelist Cameron Nolan (Daren Scott), who at 40 visits Trenton’s “finder of lost loves” Mitzi Jackson (Kristianne Kurner), boasting a 100% find rate.

Cameron is not looking for a lost love, but his birth mother. Mitzi – brassy, busty and promiscuous – initially demurs (lost moms are not her specialty), but agrees to take the case.

Elsewhere, the sweet but milquetoasty Owen Linsky (John DeCarlo) visits hard-nosed divorce lawyer Larry Gilman (Manny Fernandes), hoping to find a way not to lose his wife – with surprising results.

Tina Harvey (Dana Case), a woo-woo believer in alien abduction, tries to tell pediatric neurologist Dr. Hunter Albert (Adam Brick) that seizures suffered by son Dustin (Jonah Gercke) may be traceable to her parents’ abduction in 1968.

Rather less successfully written characters include apparent slacker Gary Jamache (Justin Lang); Judge Newton Jones (Jack Missett), estranged from daughter Brooke (Kelly Iversen) for reasons we’re not given to know; lusty bisexual plastic surgeon Dr. Edna Koenig (Frances Regal), whose office policy includes having a second man (Lang) in the room when examining a male patient; and Paulie (Kyle Lucy), who thinks he’s daredevil Evel Knievel and responds only when his Knievel doll is addressed. Lang is a a hoot, even if his character is insufficiently developed.

Also cast in small roles are lighting designer Chris Renda playing Curtis, Edna’s adopted son, and stage manager Samuel Sherman, playing “artist” Andrew.

It’s a strange, even challenging piece, offering plenty of laughs but too much length and some characters whose presence is puzzling. The banter is fast and furious – sometimes too fast for easy comprehension.

But it is absolutely engaging and great fun to see the group frolicking together, especially consummate professional Kurner intentionally chewing scenery (and showing lots of cleavage), and Fernandes in an unexpected role.

The details

“Brilliant Mistake” plays through June 24 at New Village Arts Theatre,
2787 State St., Carlsbad.

Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; matinees Saturday at 3 pm and Sunday at 2 pm.

For tickets, call (760) 433-3245 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.