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Theater review: 'Big Bro/Little Bro' at Company of Angels

July 30, 2009 |  5:05 pm

The opening image of "Big Bro/Lil Bro," which concludes its Company of Angels run on Sunday, is a man in a wheelchair, gazing down a hall as though into infinity. Its synoptic return at the end of Jonathan Ceniceroz's intriguing comic drama has rather different, entirely ironic implications.

We quickly learn that Gil (Art McDermott) is the aging lover of Carlos (Vince Tula), who now rejects their long-term arrangement -- "I love you, mijo, but I'm not in love with you." It's clear to both Gil and us that, as 40 approaches, this former pretty boy from Montebello is blindly leaping into his own identity crisis.

That arrives with unapologetically narcissistic Jeremy (understudy David Padilla, in for Xavi Moreno), a Generation Next-er of decidedly brazen ambitions. Their relationship grows shaky against economic and psychosexual realities, leading to sinister reversals of motive.

Ceniceroz has a sharp ear for the way gay men talk to each other, especially pert when pitting pros and cons of the pre-AIDS era against current attitudes. His script could further explore the subtle variants between Caucasian and Latino perspectives, and certain plot twists are more predictable than need be. Director Josh Chambers achieves striking effects, notably in the fluid spatial positioning of the triangle and the sudden scene shifts to designer Jeff Teeter's booming sound track.

Similarly, the cast keeps us off-balance and attentive, although audibility and expression occasionally suffer for intimacy. An obvious purple theater circuit natural, "Big Bro/Lil Bro" might be most rewarding as a noir-tinged indie film.

-- David C. Nichols

"Big Bro /Lil Bro," Company of Angels Theatre at the Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., L.A. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday. Ends Sunday. $20. (323) 883-1717. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes.