‘Brothers Beckett’ gets a showcase at the Arsht

Back in the day, when the economy was robust and college grads rushed to get their adult lives started, the Peter Pan lifestyle of brothers Brad and Kevin Beckett would have been a kind of pitiable anomaly.

Today? It’s just how plenty of young adult guys roll.

Playwright David Michael Sirois dreamed up the highly educated, life-challenged siblings and introduced them to the world in Brothers Beckett, a play got its world premiere in 2011 at the Miami Lakes-based Alliance Theatre Lab.

Scott Shiller, executive vice president at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, saw that production and thought that Sirois deserved a larger audience for his funny, observant play. So Brothers Beckett has finally made the move from the cozy Main Street Playhouse in Miami Lakes to the Carnival Studio Theater at the Arsht’s Ziff Ballet Opera House.

Coproduced by Alliance and the Arsht as part of the Theater Up Close series, Brothers Beckett has had its design scaled larger, three of five roles recast and some work done on the script. Happily, Sirois and director Adalberto J. Acevedo have delivered what Shiller intended: an insightful comedy about just how tough it can be to get going in life.

Sirois’ Beckett brothers are a kind of Ivy League odd couple. Brad (Sirois), the elder, has a graduate degree in philosophy and absolutely no motivation to find work thanks to the oft-strained generosity of his younger brother. Kevin Beckett (Gabe Hammad), a fellow Yale grad, is an aspiring playwright who pays the brothers’ bills through an assortment of small jobs.
The brothers share a studio apartment whose most notable features are the bunk beds where they sleep (Brad has the upper), a free-standing bathtub not hooked up to any discernible water source, and walls painted roughly the shade of Pepto-Bismol. Brad keeps track of his conquests with marks on the wall (he’s at 22 and counting). Sexist and homophobic remarks are just the Becketts’ way of saying, “Hey, bro.” It’s all very frat house.

Their neighbor Doug (Mark Della Ventura at his scene-stealing, hilarious best) breezes in and out of the Beckett pad, mostly to use the bathroom since he’s basically wrecked the plumbing in his. Dr. Joyce Elliot (Julie Daniels), a sexy germ-phobic meteorologist, hangs with the guys on a regular basis. But to Brad’s chagrin, Kevin is about to destroy Brad’s pink post-collegiate cocoon by proposing to his long-distance girlfriend Tuesday (Ashley Price).

The actors, particularly Sirois and Della Ventura, work together with intricately timed ease. Hammad communicates Kevin’s yearning and greater focus, and he and the often-smirking Sirois are both connected and combative as siblings. Price is a bit less edgy as Tuesday, robbing the Kevin-Tuesday dynamic of some beneficial intensity, while Daniels makes the most of her character’s love affair with hand sanitizer. Della Ventura, whose Doug is a caring friend, a nut case and a recurring sight gag, pretty much gallops off with the show, earning the loudest applause and craziest cheers. Not that anyone, including his impressive pal Sirois, seems to mind.