Battle of the Bands, Victory Gardens Theater. It’s not the future that two middle-aged brothers, once members of Wichita’s answer to the Fab Four, had in mind for themselves. Steven Burns is a balding soccer dad with teenage children when his younger brother, Michael, turns up one day to announce that he’s left his wife and daughter and wants to resume his music career, resurrecting their old band. Showbiz fever throws both households into turmoil as the two men struggle between following their bliss and accepting their responsibilities.

Such is the debate in Dean Corrin’s articulate, thought-provoking exploration of the options open to those reluctantly facing an end to youthful fantasies, addressing the conflicts that confront all middle-aged romantics who’ve failed to die before they got old. The paths the brothers’ bandmates have chosen–one devotes himself wholly to his family while the other continues his carefree rock-and-roll lifestyle–resolve nothing.

At the preview performance I attended, Sandy Shinner’s direction of this world premiere rendered Corrin’s arguments incisive and immediate. An accomplished cast, led by Phil Ridarelli as the ambivalent Steven, likewise gave these familiar characters intelligence and sensitivity. Whether our crossroads lies before or behind us, Battle of the Bands depicts a universal, inevitable crisis.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Liz Lauren.