In Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor’s bittersweet comedy, The Best Brothers, Kyle and Hamilton Best have lost their mother to a freak accident involving a drag queen. Nursing past resentments, the two must now sort out the funeral arrangements, their mother’s estate, what to do with her beloved dog, all the while asking the age-old question: who did mom love best?
“I think ultimately this play is about how much a mother’s love extends beyond the grave to help her boys heal and cope with her death,” says director Sharon Bajer. “It’s about love and acceptance and connection and life and death and sibling rivalry and poo.”
A production from Kamloops professional theatre company, Western Canada Theatre, The Best Brothers will mark a homecoming of sorts for Bajer who grew up on the West Coast and studied at Langara’s professional theatre school, Studio 58.
“I left Vancouver to do a show in Winnipeg 26 years ago and I am finally coming back,” she says. “I wouldn’t miss it.”
Having first fallen in love with The Best Brothers after seeing the original production at Stratford in 2012, it was a production featuring her husband at Winnipeg’s Prairie Theatre Exchange that solidified her admiration for the play.
“When the opportunity came to direct it at Western Canada Theatre and Theatre Northwest arrived, I jumped at the chance and I put together two of my favourite guys, Ryan James Miller and Aidan DeSalaiz,” she says. “I knew they would have incredible chemistry, and they do.”
As a woman, Bajer also saw it as an opportunity to see the play from a perspective which may not have been done before.
“I wanted the presence of the mother to be paramount, and I think it’s very interesting to see the play through the feminine lens,” she says.
Playing one-half of the Best brothers is Aidan deSalaiz, who takes on the role of Hamilton. Straight, married and settled, he is a stark contrast to his younger brother Kyle, who is gay, and leading a decidedly less conventional life.
“Hamilton is a complex man, who’s managed to keep his emotions and fears tucked away for most of his life,” explains deSalaiz. “Although on the outside, he appears to have it all – successful career, house, and a marriage – he’s starting to crumble.”
As Hamilton is forced to look at his life, relationships and mortality after the death of his mother, deSalaiz looked to real life for inspiration.
“Part of my preparation was also reflecting on these issues in my own life; how they might be similar to Hamilton, and also how they differ,” he says. “I like going for long walks during a rehearsal process, and letting my imagination run wild. It’s a great way to make discoveries, and this carries on throughout the run.”
In a two-hander such as this, it was also important to develop a bond with the actor playing his fictional brother. DeSalaiz found it in Miller.
“We continue to push one another to take risks and make new discoveries each night, and it also helps that he’s hilarious,” he says. “Also, the audiences have been so receptive, so to get to play with them every night is thrilling.”
For both director and actor, it is the intersection of laughter and tears where The Best Brothers really finds its mojo.
“To me, laugher sits right in the same sweet spot as tears and if you can experience both in one play, to me that is a great evening of theatre,” says Bajer.
deSalaiz agrees: “Hearing the laughter, but also seeing someone wipe away the odd tear, I really get the sense that we’re all in this together – theatre, life. It’s an amazing feeling, and a credit to Daniel MacIvor.”
The Best Brothers opens at the Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver on May 8 and continues through May 19. Visit https://kaymeek.com for tickets and information.