Sunday, March 9, 2014

Appropriate ***

Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins has created a southern family, the Lafayettes, who are right up there in theatrically dysfunctional behavior with any characters penned by Tennessee Williams, Horton Foote or Tracy Letts. The three Lafayette siblings have gathered at the family home in Arkansas, a former plantation, not long after their father's demise to hold an estate sale and auction the dilapidated house. The eldest, Toni (Johanna Day), an embittered recent divorcee, is in from Atlanta with her teen-aged son Rhys (Mike Faist), whose recent brush will the law has cost her her job. Bo (Michael Laurence) is a type-A New York executive who has brought along his Jewish wife Rachael (Maddie Corman) and two children, Cassidy (Izzy Hanson-Johnston) and Ainsley (Alex Dreier). To the consternation of his siblings, younger brother Franz f/k/a Frank (Patch Darragh), who had vanished 10 years prior after an incident with an underage girl, has reappeared with his New Age fiancee River f/k/a Trisha (Sonya Harum). It's not long before the three siblings are having at each other, pouring out resentment and blame. In sorting through the vast piles of their father's stuff, they come across an old album with photos of lynched blacks. Discovery of this album raises troubling questions about their father. The shouting and screaming are punctuated by a series of surprises. The playwright lays it on a bit thick, but the result is never boring. Clint Ramos's set is remarkable: it quickly creates a mood and has some surprises of its own. Director Liesl Tommy really keeps things moving. While the play has lots of negatives, for me at least, they were outweighed by its energy and ambition. I am not sure whether the title is the adjective or the verb or perhaps both. In selecting Jacobs-Jenkins for its Residency Five program, Signature Theatre has made a promising choice. I look forward to seeing what he does next. Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes including intermission (at 3/9 preview). Nudity alert: There's a short scene of partial male nudity.


Anonymous said...

I love your reviews, as you know. More often than not I agree with you.They are excellent.
However, I don't think it is wise to review shows in preview. The reason being that many changes take place in the preview process.
It is the only opportunity that most shows have these days to make changes and to improve. Some lucky plays come from other theaters
where they have played or go out of town,but few can afford to do it these days. It really isn't fair to review them in process.
It is just a suggestion but as a theater person of some experience I felt I should send it to you.

Robert Sholiton said...

I generally review shows within a week of opening when they are likely to be set.(The critics generally attend before opening night these days.) I always specify that I saw a preview. If I see a show earlier and spot a problem, I often point out that there's time to fix it before opening night. In my opinion, when they started charging full price for previews, they lost the right not to be reviewed. In the unlikely event they ever return to preview prices, I'll reconsider. I certainly respect your opinion though.

George Dorris said...

Reviewing is always a complicated matter and reviewing previews raises legitimate questions, I think that Robert has made the right compromise, by making it clear that it was a preview he saw. He also makes the point (which came to my mind before I reached it in his reply) about pricing previews at the same rate as after opening. The original premise of previews used to be lower prices for work in progress. Having them at the same higher prices opens them to criticism.

Robert Sholiton said...

Thanks for sharing your opinion.