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Review: A New Brain 

An offbeat musical performed on the karaoke stage at Kajun’s Pub in Marigny

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Photo by Audion de Vergnette

As a children's TV show star who is a monster to his employees off camera, Mr. Bungee (Kyle Daigrepont) provides plenty of laughs in A New Brain. Dressed in a furry green frog outfit with huge bug eyes, he rages at Gordon Schwinn (Chris Wecklein) to write new songs for each episode and demands simple rhyme schemes ("oceanic"/"satanic," "virginity"/"affinity").

  Gordon winds up in the hospital, where he is serenaded by all sorts of medical staff, and director Christopher Bentivegna maintains offbeat levity with songs about restaurant specials ("Calamari") and prepping characters for major surgery ("Craniotomy").

  See 'Em On Stage's production is the first full theatrical show staged at Kajun's Pub, and most of the action takes place in the cramped corner usually dedicated to the bar's karaoke stage. A cabaret table near the front is part of the set, and the action swirls around an island of front-row table seating. Bentivegna makes the most of a space in which the entire cast barely fits onstage for ensemble numbers ("Heart and Music," "Time and Music"), and a cast full of talented singers carries the show.

  Gordon meets Rhoda (Lisa Piccone) for dinner and reveals that he's under pressure to create a new song for Mr. Bungee. The time and stress keep him from writing the songs he wants to write for himself, but before much can be said, Gordon collapses. At the hospital, a cast of singing nurses and doctors makes his examination hilarious, even as they sing about brain scans and malfunctioning arteries and describe the "coffin"-like apparatus used for an MRI.

  Gordon's mother Mimi (Tracey Collins) rushes to his side and in lieu of her concerns for his health, she leads a tune about genetics ("Gordo's Law of Genetics"), complaining a mother is always blamed for a child's misfortunes. Gordon's boyfriend Roger (Robert Facio) doesn't rush to the hospital, instead lamenting his loss of leisure ("I'd Rather Be Sailing").

  A medical technician flirts with Gordon during a sponge bath before his condition worsens. The show takes a serious — and at times thickly sentimental — turn when Gordon falls into a coma, and many characters reassess their lives. Collins and Facio contribute pretty, heartfelt ballads, and Wecklein's singing is strong throughout the show. Jessica Mixon plays a homeless woman who begs outside the hospital, a character who offers a different perspective on hardship and misfortune, and Mixon also turns in a strong solo.

  Mr. Bungee still wants his song on time, and the show never loses its upbeat and offbeat humor.


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