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The Half-Brothers Mendelssohn at Strange Tree Group | Theater review

While Elizabeth Bagby's new time-travel comedy contains its fair share of interesting ideas within the genre, erratic pacing could leave you wanting a little time back yourself.

 (Photograph: Emily Schwartz)
1/3
Photograph: Emily Schwartz

Andy Hager, Stuart Ritter and Brandon Ruiter in The Half-Brothers Mendelssohn at Strange Tree Group

 (Photograph: Emily Schwartz)
2/3
Photograph: Emily Schwartz

Stuart Ritter and Brandon Ruiter in The Half-Brothers Mendelssohn at Strange Tree Group

 (Photograph: Emily Schwartz)
3/3
Photograph: Emily Schwartz

Brandon Ruiter and Stuart Ritter in The Half-Brothers Mendelssohn at Strange Tree Group

Elizabeth Bagby's fitfully charming new time-travel comedy begins at a funeral in 1929. The deceased is the father of half-brothers Theo (Stuart Ritter), whose mother left the family when he was 11, and Nicholas (Brandon Ruiter), who was born to Theo's later stepmother.

To the pretty much equal horror of everyone involved—including the reverend conducting the funeral, the reverend's painfully shy daughter who's beloved by both Theo and Nicholas, and the family's dim-witted longtime gardener—both mothers show up to say their goodbyes.

Nicholas's mother, Henrietta (Jenifer Henry Starewich) is a stiff-spined, fervently religious woman; Theo's mother, Alice (Kate Nawrocki) is a free spirit who hasn't seen her son since she left 21 years earlier. But Theo, an eccentric science whiz, is convinced he can undo the whole business by travelling back in time to the day his mother left and rearranging things so she stays—even though that would wipe out Nicholas's whole existence.

As in pretty much every wacky treatment of time travel, Theo ends up taking some unwanted stowaways on his trip to the past—namely Nicholas and the gardener, Angelus (Andy Hager as a deliciously deadpan doofus)—and (again, as expected in these kinds of stories) their efforts to change the timeline end up complicating things in ways they couldn't envision.

Bagby's script, while packed with entertaining gags, goes off on a few more branches than it ought to, which probably contributes to the jagged pacing of Thrisa Hodits's production. While Ritter and Ruiter are sympathetic half-sibs, some of the rest of the uneven cast could leave you wishing for a little lost time back.

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