Post image for Theater Review: SUMMER SESSION WITH THE BONES BRIGADE (CVRep)

by Barry Schoenfeld on December 9, 2023

in Theater-Palm Springs (Coachella Valley)


“Let’s Just Skate While We Still Can” — is this the moral of Summer Session with the Bones Brigade, now playing at CVRep through December 17th? Is it really? Does this play earn this last line of the evening?

Akiyo Komatsu/DK, Ethan Zeph/Heath, Alex Michell/Lee

Kudos to CVRep for premiering new plays on their Cathedral City stage – since so few Southern California companies will take the risk – but this is a perplexing one.

Madeline D. Hall/Sid, Bonale Fambrini/Shane

Kirby Field’s play, developed at CVRep’s ORIGINS New Works Program, starts off promising, with a beautiful set by Jimmy Coumo — a giant skateboard half-pipe dominating the thick forest — and a young cast of energetic actors.

Ethan Zeph/Heath, Bonale Fambrini/Shane, Alex Michell/Lee, Aiyo Komatsu/DK

But why are so many messages being telegraphed just by putting them into the mouths of these actors? Where’s the finesse? Where are the subtleties of these characters? Because without a strong plot to fill out the evening, we need more fully fleshed-out characters to relate to, and to come to care about their dilemmas.

Madeline D. Hall/Sid, Ethan Zepf/Heath, Akiyo Komatsu/DK, Keeley Karsten/Loralai

Throwing in a bunch of skateboard lingo that means little to nothing to most in the Coachella Valley audience. It is just as enlightening as the untranslated French voiceover that opens this play.

Okay, so Heath is a bully; Heath’s best friend, DK, is just blossoming sexually; and Sid sleeps around looking for love. But what does playwright Fields want us to feel about this “lost gang?” Alienated teenagers from broken families coming of age is not enough anymore. These characters are almost stereotypes, even if some of this material is actually autobiographical.

Akiyo Komatsu/DK, Kelley Karsten/Loralai

Karen Sieber’s “movement” is very interesting choreography, very well-executed and helps us understand the emotional quotient of these characters, but why do we need a pin spot on the actors when they need to speak their truths in clunky and blunt monologues? We almost start to expect it.

Director (and CVRep Artistic Director) Adam Karsten has a big challenge in filling this wide stage and knitting together the little he gets from the script, and the side projection screens only divert our attention further.

Alex Michell/Lee (top); Akiyo Komatsu/DK (center)

Bonale Fambrini as Shane stands out in this cast for his easy going, naturalistic style that draws us to him in most every scene. But the playwright does Ethan Zeph’s Heath no favors of characterization after he’s been called (or calls himself) an asshole 10 or 12 times. Heath shows glimmers of a more three-dimensional character, but doesn’t get the lines to develop that character. And both women (Madeleine D. Hall as Sid; and Keely Karsten as Loralai) need to modulate their big scenes, not just raise the volume level.

photos by David A. Lee

Summer Session with the Bones Brigade
Coachella Valley Repertory
Wed & Sat at 2 & 7; Thurs & Fri at 7; Sun at 2
ends on December 17, 2023
for tickets ($50 – $88), call 760.296.2966×115 or visit CVRep

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