Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews

Off Broadway Theater Review - The Bereaved by Thomas Bradshaw




picture - The BereavedTheater Review

by Kestryl Lowrey

published September 11, 2009


The Bereaved

now playing Off Broadway at The Wild Project

through September 26


Thomas Bradshaw’s reputation as a provocateur precedes him.  Perhaps that’s why I wasn’t surprised when the first scene of The Bereaved featured two parents discussing their son’s semen.  The on-stage spanking and analingus scene hardly made me bat an eye.  I can imagine the content would have been more surprising to audience members who didn’t know to expect it.


Granted, as graphic as Bradshaw’s work can be, it doesn’t feel gratuitous.  He describes his plays as “hyperrealism” or “reality without the boring parts.” The New Yorker attributed him with the dubious honor of “almost singlehandedly taking on the issue of race in the theatre,” and it’s true that many of his plays skewer racial assumptions and stereotypes. Don’t expect a lecture or a polemic, though—and don’t expect race to be the only issue on the table. 


The Bereaved is witty and fast-paced, with a plot reminiscent of an after-school special minus the moral.  Director May Andrales knows how to work with Bradshaw’s muscular text, keeping scenes wry and punchy.  With a less skilled director, the dialogue could have become flat and shallow; Andrales and her cast are clearly having a good time, and their enthusiasm shows.  How else could they pull off a black-face rape fantasy so engagingly?


The cast works well together, embracing their endearingly dysfunctional characters without any hesitation.  Michael (Andrew Garman) acquiesces to his wife’s (McKenna Kerrigan) dying wishes with a befuddled affability, which only increases as the drama continues. Playing his new wife Katy, actress KK Moggie has delightful timing and deft control of her facial expressions, while actor Brian D. Coats layers racist stereotypes onto Jamal, crafting a character that we’re all secretly grateful to not encounter in a dark alley.  Meanwhile, the teenagers Teddy (Vincent Madero) and Melissa (Jenny Seastone Stern) exude a youthful awkwardness enhanced by a gleeful self-assurance in their own invincibility.


For a play titled, The Bereaved, none of Bradshaw’s characters seem particularly sad.  Sure, Mom just died, but why waste time mourning when there is coke to snort and virginities to lose?  This may not have looked like any bereavement I’d seen before, but then again, it didn’t have any boring parts.


kestryl.lowrey @


photo by Louis Changchien


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