The Theatre@Boston Court is known for producing innovative, artist-driven, compelling works that seek to challenge. The National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere of “Bars and Measures” by Idris Goodwin certainly furthers that mission. An award winning author of “How We Got On”, “And In This Corner: Cassius Clay” among others, Goodwin has written a play about brotherhood, faith, family, loyalty and trust held together by music through a story of two brothers. They are Eric and Bilal (born Darryl), African-American brothers, both musicians; Eric is the youngest. He is a classical pianist and was raised Christian. Bilal, the eldest, is a jazz bassist who converted to Islam as a young man.
The play opens in the visiting area of a prison where Bilal is being held on suspected terrorism charges that he and his brother believe are a mistake and a result of profiling. Eric is visiting his brother and they are preparing for Eric to play at a jazz concert benefit for Bilal’s defense fund. The brothers at times seem like they are from different worlds but they come together when they talk about music. They understand music in the way that only musicians can. But will they ultimately be able to truly understand each other?
Previously seen on the Boston Court stage in Colony Collapse, Donathan Walters, is arresting as Eric, full of hope and bravado but also able to show the vulnerability of a baby brother betrayed. Matt Orduna makes his Boston Court debut with a powerful and dynamic portrayal of Bilal, a man full of righteous indignation with the soul of a tortured artist. Both really attack the musicality of the piece, bringing rhythm and momentum to their scenes together. Zehra Fazal brings a nice sensuality to her scenes with Eric as a singer who also happens to be Muslim. Fazal also plays Bilal’s lawyer and the cast is rounded out by Brian Abraham in three roles: the prison guard, a lawyer and the mysterious Sadeem.
The direction by Weyni Mengesha is infused with the energy of the music and she sustains the tension that drives the characters toward their final destination. The set is sleek and white as sheet music with only the characters and the upright bass acting as the notes. The center of the stage is a rotating circle, echoing their lives spinning away and towards one another.
Bars and Measures is a thoughtful meditation on our preconceived notions and the ways in which we aim to understand each other.
Understudies for the cast are Phillip J. Lewis, Noel Arthur, AJ Meijer, Melissa Ryan Mehrabian with Assistant Direction by June Carryl, Scenic Design by Francois-Pierre Couture, Costumes by Leah Piehl, Lighting Design by Tom Ontiveros, Sound Design by John Nobori and musical direction by Noah Agruss.
Bars and Measures runs through October 23. The Theatre@Boston Court-70 North Mentor Ave. Pasadena. (626) 683-6883. www.BostonCourt.org