In A Eulogy for Roman, Milo, a young American, goes on his first plane ride to Edinburgh to eulogize his childhood best friend. Brendan George, who plays Milo, greets the audience at the theater's entrance. In his dark trousers, shirt, tie, black coat and shoes, he could be an actor or just work at the theater. “The eulogy is right this way,” he says.
There is no fourth wall in this play. Milo enters when everyone is seated and thanks them for attending the eulogy of a stranger. A stranger he insists that they would have loved. To Roman, there was no such thing as a stranger – only friends he hadn’t met yet. Milo says he has gathered the audience by handing out flyers on the street. Once the audience accepts this premise, the show plays out like an intimate celebration of Roman’s life.
The set is a single chair on which an urn sits. Milo begins to read a speech he prepared, but his voice falters and he abandons his notecards to speak extemporaneously. His friendship with Roman started when they were quite young, at a swimming hole in their small western Pennsylvania town, the day before Milo’s first experience as a Boy Scout. Milo was the shy one of the duo, Roman the more gregarious, but they were the best of friends and Roman always supported and looked out for Milo. George inhabits the character of Milo so fully that the audience forgets they’re watching a play. He speaks with an authenticity that creates a warm, safe space and draws the audience close. When interacting with audience members, George looks into their eyes and takes a moment to establish a real connection. The rhythm of his speech and pacing of his movements on stage seem not at all rehearsed. But the two years that George and director Peter Charney have spent preparing this show are evident: Milo’s stories flow beautifully and paint vivid pictures of two teenagers ordering Blizzards at Dairy Queen, getting ready for a school dance, and having other everyday adventures from their "Lifepoints" list, a wholesome and entertaining bucket list they created together.
More than half the show is interactive, but to describe the audience’s involvement would give away too much of the magic. Suffice it to say; participants are rewarded with a moment that transcends a typical trip to the theater. Even those who don’t volunteer are sweetly enveloped in the experience via a Spotify playlist. You’ll have to see a performance to find out exactly what that means and how successfully George uses Roman’s eulogy to make a true connection with those who attend – a connection that transforms his grief and sends it out into the world as beauty.
"A Eulogy for Roman "
Written and Performed by Brendan George
Directed by Peter Charney
July 20 - July 30, 2022
59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street) https://www.59e59.org/shows/show-detail/a-eulogy-for-roman
Following a New York City preview run at 59E59 Off-Broadway, A Eulogy For Roman will make its official world premiere at the 75th Edinburgh Fringe in August 2022.
STEPHANIE EAGAN is a professional writer based in NJ. A fan of every type of live performance imaginable, from taiko drumming to political performance art, she travels the tri-state area and beyond in search of music, art, theater, and excellent coffee.