Alum-directed "Lab Rats" finds love in a lonely place

by Benjamin Frohman / Beacon Correspondent • November 11, 2015

“Lab Rats” tells a love story in an unlikely location: a waiting room. As two test subjects, Jake and Mika, wait to try an experimental drug, they start to connect with one another. Under the influence, the medicine exposes the characters’ true emotions, and they begin to build an affectionate and authentic relationship. 

Last weekend, the 90-minute Brown Box Theatre production premiered to full crowds at Atlantic Wharf. It was written by Patrick Gabridge, and the director and the two stars of the show are all Emerson alumni.

Kyle Taustin ‘08 directed “Lab Rats” and founded the Brown Box Theatre Project, a touring theater company based in Boston and Ocean City, Maryland, six years ago. He said the commitment and dedication the crew took to put the show together was beneficial for the masses.

“We have worked very hard to create an exciting and interesting piece of theater,” Taustin said. “We are trying to bring theater to communities and demographics that don’t have a lot of access to it. The main mission of [Brown Box] is to provide free and affordable theater.”

Marc Pierre ‘13, who played Jake, said the close-knit group behind the show complimented each other through their individual work.

“We kind of have that common ground,” Pierre said. “We have a great relationship, always talking about what the scene needs, what is working and not working, having conversations, so it’s a very open vocal relationship that all of us are enjoying.”

Brenna Fitzgerald ‘11, who played Mika, said the process behind the work was intimate and true to the script.

“The playwright, Patrick, is often at rehearsals,” Fitzgerald said. “That means discussions about the characters are that much richer, and [it] also means we’re constantly tweaking lines and stage directions. I’ve really loved the process.”

Taustin said the characters in “Lab Rats” are unique and that the tone of the play is a comedic drama.

“[It’s] about two people who are on the fringes of society,” Taustin said. “They don’t fall into any stereotypes, and they are figuring out a way to not be alone.”

Pierre said the relationship starts out as a simple interaction that develops once they get to know each other.

“I would say it’s a love story about two people who, when they first meet, don’t show their true sides,” Pierre said. “There is this element of, ‘How much can I reveal to somebody?’ and ‘Will they accept me?’ So I think it’s a kind of a love story that shows that side of relationships, trying to break that barrier to fully love that person.”

Taustin said the play has deep realistic characters that show all sides of emotion.

“While this is a comedy in certain moments, it is also very heartfelt and warming in other moments,” Taustin said. “I think it is very exciting to see people who are not necessarily those stock characters that you’ve seen before. I hope people [who] see the show start to pay attention to things that often fall by the wayside.”

Pierre said the underlying theme, which was to enjoy and appreciate every moment, applies to day-to-day life.

“It’s a show that is more real and not necessarily in a theatrical setting,” Pierre said, “It’s very easy to miss moments like those in the show, and let them pass by and not take advantage of them.”

Heather Thomas, who saw the play and isn’t affiliated with Emerson, said the performance exceeded her expectations.

“I thought it was really neat, I was completely surprised and didn’t know what to expect,” Thomas said. “I expected to be more bored, because it takes place in a waiting room, but I was pleasantly surprised.”

Taustin said the meaning of the story is that friendships and meaningful interactions can form from any situation, even in very unlikely and odd circumstances.

“The characters are trying to find a friend and someone they can establish that kind of relationship with,” Taustin said. “I hope that the audience not only has a really great time at the theater, but also sees how even people from the farthest reaches or that seem so different from a normal interaction, can still result in positive relationships that can be formed if one just tries.”