At Trinity Rep, A Foolish And Frenetic 'Arnie Louis And Bob'

Apr 15, 2016

“Arnie Louis and Bob” checks out three old timers, brothers ranging from their late-60s to mid-70s. All three could be called wanderers, guys who spend considerable amounts of time looking for things they can't have.

Arnie cuts grass and plows snow. Makes a living at it too, more or less. Louis is depressed, beaten down, and barely in touch with reality. Bob runs an ice-making  Zamboni machine -- when he's not longing for even a glimpse of Taylor Swift, that is.

All three have ended up living in their late mother's house in a run-down area of Detroit. Arnie and Bob have been in the house together for some time, and gotten along well.

But when Louis arrives, demanding to be taken in, things go downhill.

At this point the play seems a reasonable setting for what used to be called a Kitchen Sink Drama – an American view of the family in good times, and bad. 

But “Arnie Louis and Bob” runs off the track. It certainly has its moments of real comedy and true pathos. But the rest is all too often simply frenetic foolishness.

That begins when the playwright arrives, from the audience, no less. Katie Pearl bounds onto the stage, begins explaining everything about her uncles and herself, all from her own view. She simply takes over the play, becomes almost an ever-present persona.

As the uncles whoop and weep, try and fail, and barely just get by, Ms. Pearl herself becomes the power figure, the needy and yet strong person running things. The play becomes hers as she casts ideas and beliefs mostly concerning herself.

“Being an artist is hard,” she says.

“Arnie, Louis and Bob” then becomes not so much a work about whether the three guys can make their final years as satisfactory as can be expected but whether playwright Pearl can find herself.

It's all a shame because the uncles, portrayed by three of the very best actors in Trinity's long history, Brian McEleney, Timothy Crowe and Stephen Berenson give it their all.

Berenson makes Bob a wonderfully loopy loser. He's sweet and sorrowful at once, a little guy who'd love to ditch that zamboni and become a Taylor Swift groupie.

McEleney's grass cutter/show plower is firm in his self-caring practicality.And Crowe is simply wonderful as Louis in all his fear, his inability, and his heart-breaking hopes.

Michael McCarty's set stretches the downstairs Dowling theater to its limits, filled as it is with lights and goofy artifacts.

Oh, and I've forgotten about Julia Atwood who very nicely plays a sweet and sexy stagehand and then becomes Peter Pan.

Peter Pan, you say? What's with Peter Pan? Good question, and I don’t have an answer.

“Arnie Louis and Bob” goes down, and off,  many tracks. It does have its moments  of comedy and one of real pathos. But, overall, it's frenetic and self-serving. A good idea gone bad.