A sombrero-shaded mariachi man wears a stuck-on black moustache and hugs his guitar while he strums to a full house. Tom Brosky was the mariachi star in Goddamn the Mariachi Star, a Fringe play written by Jacob Martin and David Etherington.
Siblings John and Lucy, played by John Maize and Lucy Campbell, arrive in the middle of the woods and are serenaded by mariachi melodies John makes a pompous show of being right at home in the great outdoors; he surveys the horizon and tells his exhausted sister that if they’d only arrived earlier, they could have collected crab apples for a pie.
The siblings start bickering right away. Most of John’s grandiose statements earn an irritable “what?” from Lucy. John’s overwrought sexual references are a bit uncomfortable, like you might expect from a brother’s attempts to prove his sexual prowess to his sister.
It isn’t clear right away what the issue is, but little details emerge: no one really likes John’s wife, including John. Lucy is afraid of becoming like her mother, who John says was an alcoholic and “morbid.” The main source of conflict between the two seems to be their parents, who died after an illness. The pair went awhile without speaking, but since have reconciled for a camping trip with a mysterious purpose.
At a few points, the siblings’ incessant snapping and interrupting is a bit directionless. It’s hard to get a hold on exactly what kind of screwed up this family was. Is Lucy, who let her brother’s dog starve, the crazy one? Were their parents always ill, or just at the end? John has internalized every Western he ever watched with his dad, as well as the original Star Wars trilogy. Everyone’s crazy.
When it’s revealed late in the play that the mariachi star is a third sibling, it’s a surprise that lends some welcome context to Lucy and John’s constant arguing.
The mariachi star delusion began in childhood, and Lucy and John have always resented their brother’s special-child status.
Etherington says he and Martin always knew they wanted a mariachi man on stage. Unlike most of their main characters, the writers love mariachi music. Tom Brosky learned all of the songs especially for the production.
Despite the slightly crazy overload, the play escalates effectively. You want to know what mysterious task the siblings have trekked out to do, and you want to know the identity of the guileless guitarist. Up until the last few moments of the play you only have a small inkling of why the siblings have taken their brother out into the woods. The conclusion is a surprise, but feels inevitable.