This family. Wow! Dysfunctional is inadequate to describe the layers of relational woe in this family. Playwright Lucy Thurber disconcertingly illustrates the effects of alcoholism at home. Dad is an out-of-work drunk. Mom is a functional alcoholic with a string of mediocre jobs. The teenager has a brilliant mind and anger issues. The young daughter is also smart and the burdened caretaker. We learn all that in the first few minutes. Add in the family ‘cousin’ and school teacher’s desperate obsessions and this world, these people, these lives are just f#cked up.
Director Cody Estle masterfully makes this authentic. He take Thurber’s script and makes it scary real. He has the audience bumping up to Scenic Designer Jeffrey D. Kmiec’s drab and shabby home. I’m uncomfortably close to a dining room table which hosts plenty of heated arguments. Jeff Award-winning Jacqueline Grandt (Martha) is outstanding. Grandt is hard. Her facade is crusty and tough survivor. We see glimpses of tenderness between her and her husband (played by Mark Pracht). Despite his drunken debauchery and financial neglect, she loves him. One minute, they are screaming at each other and the very next, they are banging the headboard. Estle forces us to see the strong bond between two individuals content to get wasted together and get by on food stamps and handouts. And if this story was just about them, their lifestyle would be their own business. Their tortured love affair could exist without harming anyone. But that’s the wrinkle, they have kids!
Ada Grey (Rachel) and Brendan Meyer (Billy) have grown up without two parents. Their absent father is passed out in the bedroom or at the bar. Their weary mother not only puts adult responsibilities on their youthful shoulders, she subtly and forcefully picks Pracht over them continually. Grey and Meyer have that odd closeness of two war buddies. They understand each other with a look or shortened communiques. They persevere together. Their sibling neediness is heart-wrenching. When Emily Tate (Ellen) takes an interest in Meyer’s school work, Grey sees the future without her brother. She tries to unnerve Tate with explicit accusations. The assault makes Tate visibly shaken. And its followed by Meyer’s attack of manipulation which leaves her in a puddle. I want to hug her and slap her at the same time. That’s the emotional engagement of this play. Each character is a victim and a predator simultaneously.
Estle guides us through this house of misery constructed over the years. The pace is tight. The final scene is just another night of drinking. I see Grandt, Pracht and Debra Rodkin (Gloria) yucking it up over beers and whiskey. And I feel Grey’s desperate imprisonment. Although I was glad the lights came up so I could go home, I didn’t want to leave Grey there. SCARCITY is a hard but important reality to understand. I recommend seeing it and chasing it down with a drink or antacids.
Running Time: Ninety-five minutes includes an intermission
At Redtwist Theatre, 1040 W. Bryn Mawr
Written by Lucy Thurber
Directed by Cody Estle
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru October 9th
Buy Tickets at www.redtwist.org
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