Synopsis: Five military veterans, best friends since childhood, gather together to support their troubled host, and the metaphoric ghosts of their past become all too literal.
Stars: Anne Ramsay, Ron E. Rains, Jeremy Holm, Larry Fessenden, Ezra Buzzington, Kristina Klebe
Director: Ted Geoghegan
Running Length: 92 minutes
TMMM Score: (7.5/10)
Review: As a college freshman, I was cast in a production of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians. It was an excellent opportunity to observe how to jangle an audience’s nerves. While my character died just after intermission, I would always be backstage for a pivotal moment near the end when a jump scare was set to hit the rapt crowd when they least expected it. Night after night (and each matinee), it worked like a charm, and it did so because the director had built up enough suspense to earn the jolt.
It’s hard to drum up tension onstage, just as it can be challenging to maintain the same grip on the throat onscreen. Perhaps that’s why fewer thrillers are produced for the stage, and the ones that succeed only seem to work under skilled supervision by creative-minded professionals. Watching writer/director Ted Geoghegan’s nifty dramatic thriller Brooklyn 45 unfold in real time on its solitary set, you can start to picture what it would be like to see it on stage and experience its hair-raising twists and turns live. Though it’s entirely cinematic and, I gather, written for the screen, it feels uniquely stage bound.
The Second World War has ended, and the country is still transitioning back to a time of peace. The adjustment for some has been smooth, but the process is slow for others. Those who were a part of the war and saw its horrors are finding it difficult to forget what they saw, unable to forgive themselves for their actions or entirely turn off their service to their country when scanning the unfamiliar faces and accents that occupy their neighborhoods. That’s where Geoghegan plunks us down as the film opens in New York on a late December evening.
Recently widowed Clive (Larry Fessenden, Jakob’s Wife) has requested the presence of his war buddies, and they’ve obliged, unaware of the trouble they’re walking into. Marla (Anne Ramsay, The Taking of Deborah Logan), Archie (Jeremy Holm, Don’t Look Back), and Paul (Ezra Buzzington, The Nowhere Inn) are Clive’s closest confidants. Though Marla’s vanilla husband Bob (Ron E. Rains) has joined them, the quartet has business to conduct. Clive is hoping to hold a slapdash séance to contact his wife, and when it goes awry, it opens a dangerous door that everyone in attendance will need to shut before they can leave.
Letting you in on any more would spoil the ride Geoghegan has designed, and it’s been so carefully mapped out that I wouldn’t dream of giving the route away. Once the friends have entered Clive’s brownstone and the door to the sitting room is locked, expect the unexpected. Much attention is paid to the after-effects of WWII and how Clive’s wife died by suicide, driven mad by thoughts that her neighbor (Kristina Klebe, Hellboy) was a Nazi spy. The history of how each of the guests behaved (admirably or not) during wartime also comes out, including one teeth-clenching display of interrogation tactics that might have you shielding your eyes.
Progressing in almost perfect real-time, Brooklyn 45 is the kind of film you want to watch without distraction. Geoghegan’s script has so many layers, and the performances are so nicely nuanced that devoting your entire focus will only add to its impact. Each actor is afforded a moment or two to shine, but it’s hard to ignore the substantial work from Ramsey and Klebe. Both are tasked with playing women who must switch gears at the drop of a hat and do it convincingly without feeling like the script is dictating it. The men around them offer strong support, but the women steal the show.
A fantastic choice for a rainy day or stormy night, Brooklyn 45 could also be easily adapted for the stage should Geoghegan want to enter the stage business. It would be the perfect parlor piece offering plum roles to strong character actors on the stage as it has done for these film actors. Until it shows up at your regional theater, turn off your phone and set aside 90 minutes for this entertaining ticket streaming on a service near you.