A EULOGY FOR ROMAN Ponders New Beginnings — Review
The most profound sentiment of the night came, unusually, from an audience member.
Early on at my performance of A Eulogy For Roman, a new solo show written and performed by Brendan George, George posed a question to the crowd: How do you recover from loss?
The first few responses were playful. “Crying all the time,” someone threw out. Another announced: “Tequila.”
Then an older man, seeming perturbed by our glibness, answered for real: “You learn how to breathe again.”
Grief is a well trod territory in theater, and the theme can be deployed cheaply to yank on heartstrings. I feared such manipulation early on in Eulogy, as Milo (George) stepped out and thanked the intimate crowd at 59E59’s Theater C for attending a memorial for his best friend Roman. Milo is nervous, and struggles to stay on his pre-written cards. So he begins enlisting audience members (on a volunteer basis) to help him celebrate Roman.
Two elements keep this cutesy premise engaging. The first is George himself, an undeniably endearing and lovable presence. I wanted to resist his script’s corniest moments, such as recollections of earning “Life Points” with Roman by completing challenges (“Meet a famous person,” “Do 100 push-ups”). But George’s puppy-dog charm kept me invested, despite myself.
The second element is a constant sense, smartly sustained in Peter Charney’s soft-touch direction, that Milo is keeping something from us. He is pushing the awkward charm a little too hard, and seems oddly desperate to not let this memorial end. What is really going on?
On our journey towards the truth, Eulogy at times stretched even my very supportive audience’s patience. Milo’s memories of Roman are compelling, and delicately delivered by George. But digressions about New York life and cultural clashes with his hometown prove dull, and some audience interactions lingered two or three minutes too long.
At least that all proves deliberate, as we finally discover why Milo is desperate to remain with us. Eulogy is ultimately a show about new beginnings – about the necessity, and the terror, of starting over. The aim is for us, the mourners, to leave the show with a feeling of rebirth equal to Milo’s. That’s a lofty aim, and the show doesn’t quite manage it, but it gets impressively close.
Milo mentions just once, almost in passing, that he is gay. His journey in Eulogy mirrors that of many queer children: sustained as a kid by imagination, and reaching adulthood late in the game. For me, Eulogy’s themes of rebirth hit strongest in the context of a queer kid’s delayed adolescence. But ultimately, George’s moving journey will resonate with anyone who ever had to, “Learn how to breathe again.”
A EULOGY FOR ROMAN is now in performance through September 3rd at 59E59 Theaters. For tickets and more information, visit here.