Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Playing Games
Space 55 / Brelby Theatre Company
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's review of The Rocky Horror Show


Devon Mahon, Alex Tuchi and Melody Chrispen
Photo by Shelby Maticic
Just about every married couple has their secrets, along with specific things they love to do together that help keep their marriage alive. In the case of Brian Maticic's intriguing comedy/drama Playing Games, husband and wife Bryson and Mel have a unique way to fan the spark in their relationship by pulling strangers into their deranged, psychological, but mostly harmless, parlor games. Space 55 and Brelby Theatre Company's co-production is well cast and well directed and Maticic's well-plotted script has you constantly on the edge of your seat.

The plot begins when Mel brings Matt to her home. Matt, thinking that Mel is single, is intrigued by her until Bryson comes home, asks what Matt is doing with his wife, and threatens him with a gun for having an affair with her. This is the beginning of an extended game the couple plays that pulls both Matt, and Mel's sister Liz, along with a stranger from their past, into the middle of an ever-changing plot that has serious and life-threatening implications.

Maticic has crafted realistic characters and situations that, while far-fetched, never cross into the area of improbability. The smartly written, ever-changing plot is full of twists and turns that keep the audience guessing as to what is fact and what is fiction. There is also a lot of humor in the dialogue and situations as well as some truly intense scenes (the fight choreography from Maticic is excellent.) My only quibble is with the ending, as it doesn't quite have as high a pay off as I was anticipating and it ends the show on a bit of a downer.

The cast, under Shelby Maticic's proficient direction, throw themselves, literally, into their parts. Devon Mahon and Melody Chrispen are excellent as Bryson and Mel. They put a modern spin on a couple who constantly argue yet love each other and use the games they play with others to keep things interesting. Alex Tuchi has a keen ability to continually show confusion on his face and remain in a constant perplexed state as Matt, who states, "It's like I've walked into a different world." Bertha Cortes is sweet and good natured as Liz, Mel's sister who finds herself in the middle of Mel and Bryson's games, and Brian Maticic intensely plays Jason, a man from Liz's past who threatens to throw Bryson and Mel's games, and the budding romance between Matt and Liz, into a tailspin.

Playing Games is a witty, well-written play that expertly instills pops of humor amongst the script's more powerful moments. While I wish the ending were slightly better, Space 55 and Brelby Theatre Company's co-production features a very good cast and skillful direction which, when combined with the provoking and intriguing script, results in a satisfying production. It is my understanding that the piece is still being worked on.

Playing Games, through August 19th, 2018, at Space 55, 1524 N. 18th Avenue, Phoenix AZ. Tickets and information can be found at Space55.org.

Written by Brian Maticic
Director: Shelby Maticic

Cast:
Bryson: Devon Mahon
Mel: Melody Chrispen
Matt: Alex Tuchi
Liz: Bertha Cortes
Jason: Brian Maticic


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