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Did you ever hear about the Johnstone twins...?

Blood Brothers

Musical Theatre Guild

Book, Music, and Lyrics by Willy Russell

Directed by Ronni Marshak

Kresge Little Theatre

August 29 and 30 at 8 p.m.

September 4, 5, and 6 at 8 p.m.

Starring Kristin Hughes, Jamez Kirtley SM '95, Brian Delaney, Ahmed Ait-Ghezala '99, Teresa Raine '98

By Teresa Huang
Staff Reporter

MTG's summer production of Willy Russell's Tony-nominated musical Blood Brothers is a blend of tragedy and joy which comes to life through a smart interpretation and excellent cast. Directed by Ronni Marshak, who directed the MIT Community Players production of Fortinbras last year, Blood Brothers is a haunting musical which excels on stage.

Blood Brothers tells the story of the Johnstone twins Mickey (Brian Delaney) and Eddie (Ahmed Ait-Ghezala '99), brothers separated at birth who reunite and become friends in their childhood, unaware of their relation to each other or of the consequences their relationship will bring about.

At the start of the musical, working class woman Mrs. Johnstone (Kristin Hughes) learns she is pregnant with twins and confides in her employer Mrs. Lyons (Jacqueline Kirtley G) about her fears that she will not be able to support both children. Mrs. Lyons, a wealthy and deceitful woman unable to have children herself, persuades Mrs. Johnstone to give up one of her boys with the promise that she will raise him in the lap of luxury. But when Mrs. Lyons fires the mother in hopes of making Eddie all her own, she is unable to separate herself and Eddie from the Johnstone family or from the lies of the past, leading both families towards a tragic end.

The story is told through the narrator (Jamez Kirtley SM '95), who is presented as an especially pivotal character of this production, a manifestation of one of the visible themes in Blood Brothers - the idea that life is a game. He treats the characters as players of his game, manipulating their lives and playing off their superstitious beliefs. The narrator is always visible on stage, acting as a Mephistophelean puppeteer of sorts who manipulates the lives and families of Mrs. Johnstone and Mrs. Lyons.

Blood Brothers also explores class differences and the gap between classes through the way both the sons and mothers choose to live their lives. Mrs. Johnstone and Mrs. Lyons are in two very different classes, yet they are unable to avoid each other because of the connection their sons share. The differences in lifestyle, values, and morals of the two families are stark yet subtly done.

The most prevalent theme is within the constant reference to Marilyn Monroe. In the opening song "Marilyn Monroe", Mrs. Johnstone tells of her carefree youth, comparing every aspect of her life to that of the blond bombshell. The song is reprised several times, and though the reference becomes a bit tiresome, its relevance is strong. Although beautiful and successful, Marilyn Monroe led a complex life and in many ways brought on her own destruction. Her memory is framed by her bitter end just as the story of the Johnstone twins is framed by the image of the two brothers lying dead on the floor. Seemingly every major player in Blood Brothers is a tragic figure, meeting their own end through their own tragic means.

Though this production presents a quiet opening, the stage comes to life when Brian Delaney enters as 7-year old Mickey. Delaney's fearless interaction with his fellow actors and the audience is spirited and skilled. Ait-Ghezala plays the conservative brother Eddie with a perfect blend of awkwardness and naivat. Both Delaney and Ait-Ghezala bring great passion and spirit to the stage in their flawless portrayal of the twin brothers, different in so many ways because of how they were raised, yet drawn to each other like only brothers are.

Through interactions between the narrator and the characters, Blood Brothers reaches a quick but powerful climax which holds so much meaning in last words spoken and the placement of every character on stage. The show ends as it started with the Johnstone twins dead and the narrator reprising his opening soliloquy, "Did you ever hear about the Johnstone twins?"

According to director Ronni Marshak, Blood Brothers is "a variation on an old theme - twin brothers parted at birth," but is also filled with such raw emotion, deception, and love, that Blood Brothers becomes a moving production that is sure to leave you thinking.