Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Brothers Paranormal
Olney Theatre Center
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's recent review of The Tell-Tale Heart

Tommy Bo, Lolita Marie, DeJeanette Horne,
and Eymard Cabling

Photo by Christopher Mueller
What happens when family dysfunction overlaps with events of a possibly paranormal nature? The answer can be found in The Brothers Paranormal, the gripping play by Prince Gomolvilas now in the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab at Maryland's Olney Theatre Center.

The Thai-American playwright follows two sons of a Thai immigrant family in the Midwestern United States in 2007, trying to make a living–by drawing on Thai cultural attitudes surrounding death and the presence of ghosts–as paranormal investigators. Visarut (Eymard Cabling), who was 13 when the family came to the U.S., is a true believer, while his American-born brother Max (Tommy Bo) is a skeptic, only in it for the possible financial benefits. "Every Mulder needs a Scully," Max says, referencing the once ubiquitous fictional investigators of television's "The X-Files."

Then Max meets Delia (Lolita Marie), a Black woman who fled New Orleans two years earlier as Hurricane Katrina neared the city and, with her husband Felix (DeJeanette Horne), relocated inland. She never thought about the inexplicable, but lately she has begun hearing whispers in a possibly Asian language and seeing shadowy intimations of a restless spirit.

Much of the charm of the play comes from the verbal and physical ease displayed among the characters, directed with great empathy and familial warmth by Hallie Gordon and Aria Velz. For example, Max and Visarut's plain-spoken mother Tasanee (Cindy Chang) has no question that the presence of the departed may linger after death. She explains that Thai funerals keep going for several days before the body is cremated because, in her words, "People not used to death. Need some time to get used to it." (She emphasizes that these ceremonies are more like celebrations than occasions to grieve, including casino-style gambling for the guests.)

Delia and Felix, on the other hand, have dealt with more tangible dislocation and emotional upheaval. In addition to losing their home to Katrina, Delia's late mother coped with schizophrenia, and Felix is a paramedic spending his life "helping people not die for a little while." After they get in touch with Max and Visarut, unexplainable things begin happening, not least the presence of a specter identified as Jai (Justine "Icy" Moral) in the auditorium as well as on the stage.

Scenic designer Misha Kachman does a great deal in the small Mulitz-Gudelsky space, using a few pieces of furniture and a double-sided, rotating wall to create several distinct locations and keep the actors in close contact with the audience. Minjoo Kim's lighting design plays up the otherworldly elements with tightly focused spotlights in searing colors, assisted by Sarah O'Halloran's enveloping sound design.

While all the actors are demonstrating utter commitment to the story and the staging, Bo is the most magnetic as he comes to terms with beliefs he has always thought to be impossible, and Marie's performance manages to capture both despair and thankful joy.

The Brothers Paranormal runs through October 29, 2023, at Olney Theatre Center, Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney MD. For tickets and information, please call 301-924-3400 or visit

By Prince Gomolvilas
Directed by Hallie Gordon and Aria Velz

Jai: Justine "Icy" Moral
Max: Tommy Bo
Delia: Lolita Marie
Visarut: Eymard Cabling
Tasanee: Cindy Chang
Felix: DeJeanette Horne