Reversible floor tiles. Sleeve Me Alone. A pencil that’s also jerky.
Practical or utterly useless, these are a small handful of the colorful pitches in Brouhaha Theatre Project’s upcoming R&D: a nightmare in three flowcharts. And while these may seem the stuff of Call-Now-and-Save infomercials aimed at sexagenarians comfortable in their recliners, they originate from the fresh minds of one of Brooklyn’s youngest and most promising theater companies.
“R&D is basically a portrait of a team of Young Professionals who leave everything behind to devote themselves to this crazy startup called BrainSoul,” said Sam Myers, one of Brouhaha’s five company members and R&D’s playwright.
R&D (as in “research and development”) overflows with exhausting and all-too-familiar corporate jargon that is ripe for comedic satire. Office lingo like “impressive stapling work” and “on the same page” are often tossed around. Somehow, outside of the workplace and inside the theater, these phrases feel like poisonous earworms, which may be the point.
“Over the course of the play, the YoPros’ enthusiasm for the company becomes more and more cultish,” Myers said. “It’s an office comedy that tries to push the toxic insularity of work life to a really extreme place.”
The show debuted last year at Dixon Place in Manhattan and now comes to the basement of Bushwick/Ridgewood’s The Keep (205 Cypress Avenue), a bar with as much spunk and funk as Brouhaha’s latest project.
“We wanted to perform this play in a room that had a character and texture of its own — a space where BrainSoul could actually put up shop,” said Nick Auer, a Brouhaha member and the show’s co-director. “The Keep feels like a speakeasy within a speakeasy. As a company, we are always thinking about the audience experience and the audience’s relationship to performance.”
The original cast returns for this production of R&D, including Brouhaha quintet Hanna Allerton, Auer, John Goodman, Myers, and Max Pendergast. Catherine Mary Stewart (yes, that Catherine Mary Stewart) also reprises her role as BrainSoul’s enigmatic leader with Kim Golding joining the ensemble cast in this iteration.
The company members — all Bates alum — met at college, moved to Brooklyn, and started their own theater company, focusing on creating new, devised, and site-specific works. The collaborative nature of the fivesome may not seem far removed from the play’s premise, where team building and idea pitching reach cringe-worthy levels. “For each new show we gather everything on a blank canvas to see what sticks,” explained Pendergast, a Brouhaha co-founder with Auer and the show’s other co-director. “While we hone and whittle to ‘really get at the marrow’ of the ideas, to quote the show, we have to work through the nuances of collaboration.”
Such nuances make fertile ground for theatrical exaggeration, and Brouhaha seems winningly unafraid to point the finger at itself when dissecting the complexities of nonstop teamwork.
“What really excites us about the show is the concept of people obsessing over systems and structures at the expense of action. Invention becomes divorced from application, corporate language and office procedure become stand-ins for productivity,” Myers added, before summing it up: “It’s a world of ideas without any grounding in reality.”
R&D: a nightmare in three flowcharts is written by Sam Myers, developed with The Brouhaha Theatre Project, and directed by Max Pendergast and Nick Auer. It runs January 11–13 at 7:30 at The Keep off the Jefferson L, and tickets ($20, general admission) can be purchased here or at the door.