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Milwaukie play is about African-American brothers who grapple in a turbulent relationship punctuated with dark humor

"Top Dog, Underdog," Chapel Theatre's second play of the season, is "the story of sibling rivalry [between] African-American brothers who grapple in a turbulent relationship punctuated with dark humor," said producer Michael Streeter.

The brothers, ironically named Lincoln and Booth, love each other, but each wants to be on top, Streeter said.

PHOTO BY SALIM SANCHEZ - Left, Curtis Maxey Jr. plays Booth and LaTevin Alexander plays Lincoln in Chapel Theatre's 'Top Dog, Underdog,' opening Nov. 9. "The play explores themes of family dynamics in a compelling fashion," he said, adding that the love/hate relationship of siblings is something almost everyone will recognize.

Streeter said the dark humor in the play is one of many elements the audience will appreciate, and "humor in the face of dire circumstances is what helps us get through the tough times."

"Also, there is a richness to the language of this Pulitzer Prize-winning play that is to be appreciated. The patter, the pace. It's almost musical in places."

"Top Dog, Underdog" is co-directed by Bobby Bermea and Jamie M. Rea. The production is not recommended for children and has adult content, especially a devastating conclusion.

Bermea chose to direct the play because he was familiar with it, having performed in a production by Portland's Artists Rep more than a decade ago.

"It's a great, great play. It's highly theatrical, intimate, funny, tragic and explosive," he said.

"The relationship conflict is as fundamental and basic as you're likely to find. It's just two brothers, and each wants to beat the other one," he said. "And because they're brothers, nothing is off-limits, nothing is too far. That's drama."

Bermea said the two actors are strong performers who have powerful chemistry.

"When casting, we were really looking for actors who felt like brothers, who work well off each other, and these two guys cook," he said.

Bermea said the message of the play is that nothing is a given, and "even the very real bond between brothers is fraught with questions and tension and danger."

"If there is a message, it's that humans are flawed; sometimes tragically," Streeter said.

Bermea added, "This is drama at its most theatrical. It's just two brothers locked in a battle of wills. There are no rules, nothing is off-limits and there's not a screen in sight. Unlike Netflix, these two guys sweat."

Who's on top?

What: Chapel Theatre presents "Top Dog, Underdog," by Suzan-Lori Parks

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 5 p.m. Sundays, Nov. 9 - Dec. 1

Where: Chapel Theatre, 4107 S.E. Harrison St., Milwaukie

COST: $15 tickets at the door or at chapeltheatrecollective.com

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