I Love You, Bro is a solo comedy drama love story for the chat room age that goes beyond the screen and into the shadows that live within us.
Are you who you really are? These days with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, it seems everyone is into building a persona. Previously, only movie stars, politicians and sportsmen bothered about their image: to get box office hits, election wins and endorsement profits. But on an everyday level, don't all of us 'put it on' at least a little bit? From exaggerating romantic conquests to putting unstudied degrees on CVs, life is about 'fake it 'til you make it'. Even on the physical level, look at any of the 'skimpies' out on a freezing Canberra night-their chicken fillets bouncing about over fake tan, their hair extensions pulling at their scalp. About the only thing real is their handbag...oh wait even that's faux. What is so wrong about enhancing or covering one's true self to snare a hottie, get the job or oust the competition?
Well, it can get you almost killed, as English teenager 'Johnny' found in 2003.
I Love You, Bro is based on that true story, and this is not being glib, but truth really is stranger than fiction.
The protagonist Johnny starts at the end, and tells how he came to be stabbed. For about 70 minutes the suitably intimate setting of the Street 2 space transports the audience into a typical teenage boy's room, where we view with amusement and incredulity as he leads himself and others into a tangle of deceit.
The formula is thus: take a 14-year-old from a broken home in Manchester, confused about his sexuality, and add a serious dose of hero worship. Mix in the internet, which breaks down social barriers and enables Johnny to become multiple characters to lure his hero-16-year-old local sports adonis Marky Mark into sexual performances, and develop feelings for the shadows beyond the screen.
Johnny's exhilaration at his power over the powerful intoxicates him, turning him into the stereotypical pale-faced chat room junkie up to all hours of the night, weaving tales to keep his obsession hooked.
The story becomes increasingly bizarre; who could possibly believe the plotline of a serial-killing stalker and secret agents? But it really happened, highlighting from Marky Mark's point of view, that we all believe what we choose to.
From initial chat room chatter through to multiple characters espousing a soap opera-like existence, the tale climaxes in a jaw-dropping 'did that just happen?' moment.
Along the way there is plenty of strong language and web terminology. Thankfully Johnny explains the LOLs and ROFLs as an aside for the older crowd, also gently taking the piss out of the abbreviation generation.
People younger than 25 might not 'get' this story, being so much more tech savvy and likely to utter a 'derrr' at Marky Mark's naïveté. However, for anyone with the maturity of having lived through first love/infatuation and had some life experience to temper the tantrums, there are laughs, knowing nods and cringe-worthy moments of "No! Don't do that! Arg he just did that!"
The endearing villain/victim acting of Johnny by Leon Cain is superb, even though he's in his mid 20s, he captures the desperation and angst of the teenage years; the yearning "I'll-die-if-he-doesn't love-me" all consuming disease that eats away at 'normality'. Cain projects his voice, modulates between different characters with ease, and wrenches his body like a hormone-pumped lad stretched to extremes; compelling with every twist.
Adding to the climaxing drama is the clever use of the stage space, visuals and sound to demarcate points in the story.
Another clever move to build engagement is the decision by the writer Adam Cass and director David Berthold not to give Johnny an accent. The play is a chameleon baseline for the actor to adapt to wherever the show is performed - commenting on the universality of human behaviour.
Does I Love You, Bro comment on whether the social aspects of the internet are good or bad for humanity? No. It's a comedy-tragedy that just happens to be set in the pre-Facebook days, not unike classics such as Cyrano de Bergerac and Romeo and Juliet before it. The internet is but a tool humans use to fulfil their desires. I Love You, Bro captures the essence of infatuation and the extremes to which some people will go to make their fantasies a reality.
La Boite Theatre Company presents
I Love You Bro
by Adam J.A. Cass
Directed by David Berthold
Venue: The Street Theatre | 15 Childers St, Canberra
Dates: 15 – 26 May, 2012
Tickets: $35 – $25
Bookings: (02) 6247 1223