Gesundheit, written by Parker Lemal-Brown ’18, has something in common with the four other plays that were also selected this year for the Maine Playwright’s Festival. All of the scripts touch on death in some way.
But then there are differences, too, which Lemal-Brown jokingly describes as, “Theirs are nuanced, mature takes on death and existence. And I’m like, ‘Yeah, death, let’s have fun!'”
Gesundheit is a absurdist comedy with three characters: a man who has “decided he’s on his deathbed,” his daughter, and his physical therapist. Though Lemal-Brown originally wrote it to make people laugh — which it has been doing during its run from April 26 to May 5 at Portland Stage — the play also deepened slightly during the revision process.
For four weeks before its production, Lemal-Brown worked closely with the director, writer-in-residence, and three actors. “It has been an awesome process, I was so happy about how collaborative it was,” said Lemal-Brown, who went down to Portland twice a week during the four-week rehearsal period (or at least Skyped in from campus).
And in this process, Gesundheit gained a touch more gravitas, as well as a couple extra jokes. “It was absurdist, with no meaning, but the revision made me want to give it more meaning, and I was thinking a lot about death and spirituality,” Lemal-Brown said.
Lemal-Brown also had a play called Straw Man in Bowdoin’s one-act festival earlier in April. Recur, a play that Lemal-Brown wrote about women in STEM fields, will be performed at Bowdoin on May 11. After graduation, Lemal-Brown plans to head to Los Angeles, to seek work in the TV business.