The Artistic Home presents LES PARENTS TERRIBLES.
Playwright Jean Cocteau coils family dysfunction around love triangles. The result is some kinky threesomes. Michael has grown up with loving parents. His mother loves him… to obsessive levels. When Michael falls for Madeline, he’s ready for his happily ever after. What could go wrong? Well back at home, his father is emotionally distracted. And his mother is insanely jealous, emphasis on insane.
Director John Mossman takes this farce to slapstick levels of buffoonery. He paces it quickly for a doorslamming and headspinning romp. In the bedroom of mama, a silk enshrouded bed is the showpiece. The mattress doubles as a trampoline as the agile cast continues to fling or be flung onto it. The hysterical hysterics are spearheaded by the incomparable Kathy Scambiatterra (mama). She executes an adult tantrum with tornado-like theatrics. The unpredictable ferocious Scambiatterra rages out of control, hitting everything in her path. Her most amazing feat is stopping mid-outburst to drawl out a lucid, biting remark. Her passionate performance is tireless. And her comedic timing is pure perfection.
Matching the Scambiatterra mania, Julian Hester (Michael) brings his own style of high energy antics. Hester is like an adorable puppy. He races around the room and slobbers all over his mistress. Although the relational dynamic is disconcerting, Hester’s demeanor wins us over. Everyone loves the innocent Hester and his misguided zest for love. At different points, he literally leaps for joy.
There are two intermissions to transform Scenic Designer Corrine Bass‘ colorful gypsy camp into a stark book binder flat and back again. These scene transitions are obviously stagehand intense. I can’t help but feel the intermissions allow Scambiatterra and Hester the required breaks to maintain their indefatigable emotional output onstage.
The rest of the talented ensemble, Frank Nall, Miranda Zola and Allie Long, support the comedy frenzy. They each have their own love entanglements to fix. Nall effectively balances between being daftly funny and harshly serious. His direct confrontation of Long belies his absent-minded inventor persona. The silently expressive Long displays a heart breaking in actual time. Always on the fringe, the steadfast Zola tidies up the messes with dry humor and a quiet efficiency.
LES PARENTS TERRIBLES is an entertaining dark comedy. Mossman skillfully manages this unruly, hot-mess-of-a-family. By the end of the show, we are all out of breath as this zany rollercoaster ride comes to a complete stop.
Running Time: Two hours and twenty minutes includes two intermissions
The Artistic Home, 1376 W. Grand Avenue
Written by Jean Cocteau
Directed by John Mossman
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru April 13th
For ticket information, visit www.theartistichome.org