LITTLE BROTHER at Custom Made a stunner

(Above) L: Daniel Petzold playing Marcus, R: Marissa Keltie as Ange and C:Cory Censoprano as Darryl

(Right) Marcus being waterboarded (Photos by Jay Yamaada)

LITTLE BROTHER: Drama. Adapted from the book by Cory Doctorow and directed by Josh Costello. The Custom Made Theatre Co., 1620 Gough St (at Bush) San Francisco, CA 94109 January 13, 2012 – February 11, 25, 2012.

Too often theatre marketing directors/publicists along with their artistic directors bemoan that young people are not going to legitimate plays. The Oregon Shakespeare Company (OSF) has a substantial grant to produce concept versions of Shakespeare’s plays as an inducement to attract those youthful non-theatre goers. Those who are complaining should visit the Custom Made Theatre to find out what they are doing right. The Sunday evening performance of their latest hit Little Brother was another sold-out house populated with young attentive, appreciative people. The run of this show is being extended two weeks just as the previous 2011-2012 season plays were. They do it without grant money. To replenish their coffers they are having a Valentines Day on line auction. They deserve to be supported.

Not being familiar with the writings of Cory Doctrow did not interfere with understanding the hi-tech sci-fi world that abounds in his books. For those who are in my league, he is ( a science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger -- the co-editor of Boing Boing ( The voluminous press kit provided more cogent information that must be bypassed in order to complete a concise review that will encourage the reader to visit Custom Made’s upgraded venue at Gough and Franklin.

Adapter and director Josh Costello has impeccable credentials and is the Artist Director of Expanded Programs at Marin Theatre Company and a founder of Impact Theatre. His latest local directorial stint of Reborning, a world premiere at SF Playhouse, was a stunner. He now has earned another accolade with Little Brother that further showcases his enormous talent. He also must share those accolades with his three member cast and production crew.

Although there are only three actors, one remains in character and the other two deftly change costumes on stage and become multiple other characters without a break in the action. It is a true ensemble affair by Daniel Petzold playing Marcus the titular protagonist although Marissa Keltie as his teenage love interest Ange and Cory Censoprano as best friend Darryl often reminds Marcus that the action they are pursuing is not about him. It is about the “cause” although that word is never used.

Brilliant, charismatic, hyperactive Marcus is a computer whiz who has ability to hack into any system as he did breaking into the High School computers. Similarly, Ange who becomes Marcus’s love interest confesses to similar deeds while trusting best buddy Darryl just happens to go along for the ride.

It is about government intrusion into private lives and the erosion of civil liberties by “the government.” In this story it is the mysterious, scary Home Security Force (HSF) that has constitutional rights in the name of thwarting terrorism after the San Francisco Bay Bridge and Bart tunnel have been blown up. Our three teenagers are swept up by the HSF and brutally interrogated only because they were on the street when the explosions occurred. While Marcus and Ange are reluctantly released, Darryl “disappears” into a secret detention center on Treasure Island. You can rightly make an analogy to the Guantanamo Bay incarcerations.

Danger is everywhere, not only for our intrepid trio that is now reduced to two. They do not remain two for long when ingenious Marcus reconfigures Microsoft’s X-Box gaming computer to hack into the government’s Internet network. They recruit a band of those under 25 (the only ones you can trust) into their cadre and disruption of the HSF begins and Marcus is water-boarded before being rescued.

Director Costello has astutely changed the tone and pace in the second act that is appropriately in direct contrast to the hectic acting in act one. A charming love affair between Marcus and Ange gives them human tender dimensions to counterbalance their dangerous political moves. With Darryl secretly locked in prison on Treasure Island, Costello is able to morph Cory Censoprano into the many characters needed to create a universality of Doctorow’s philosophical predictions that are actually in place today.

This flawless production is bolstered with stunning visuals and perfect technical timing. The projections on the back wall are in themselves amazing but the actors are the make the evening a joy even if you are over age 25 and no matter what is your political persuasion. Running time a little over 2 hours.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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