Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
"Brother, Brother, Brother, Mine" does not sound like the title of a musical based on "The Comedy of Errors." Fortunately, the title was the biggest error committed by the creator of "Brother," which is an original show playing Howard University's Aldridge Theater through Sunday.
The title suggest a painfully self-conscious social drama of family soap opera. "Brother," however, is a breezy, basic little farce that is being performed almost as a carton. Kelsey Collie's script isn't nearly as complicated or as witty as Shakespeare's but it should be remembered that Shakespeare himself stole the story from "The Twin Menaechmi," by Plautus.
Collie has placed the action in turn-of-the-century New Orleans at Mardi Gras. A family that had been separated in a Mississippi River shipwreck is reunited through a series of coincidental meetings. In Shakespeare's play, the two twin brothers of the family had servants who added to the confusion. Here only one of the brothers has a servant, and his presence seems pointless. The symmetry and some of the laughs are missing.
A score by Henri Edmonds helps fill some of the gaps. The music is melodic and jazzy, though some of the songs seem to come out of nowhere in the story. A muffled unseen choir is no help.
Physical business appears to be the chief priority of Vera Katz's direction. The actors playing the rural brother and his servant are particularly obsessed with broad, quick gestures. Anthony J. Perkins' performance as the city slicker brother is more controlled and effective.
The cartoon style of comedy produces more laughs when employed by some of the supporting players, particularly the long-limbed Brenda Pettit as a flashy rate cafe owner and fortune teller and Collette Hill as the barrel-voiced Sister Sofie-Marie.
Joe W. Selmon (lights and sets) and St. Clair Christmas (costumes) conclude the show with a low-budget but high-style evocation of Mardi Gras.