Friday, March 14, 2014
The Open House ***
Another day, another play about a dysfunctional family. Since my two previous experiences with Will Eno's work were negative -- I hated "Thom Pain (based on nothing)" and was bored with "Middletown" -- I planned to skip his new play at Signature Theatre until a respected friend persuaded me it to see it. I won't go so far as to say that the third time was a charm, but I did find this droll absurdist comedy by far the most entertaining of the three. The unnamed family consists of the tyrannical Father (Peter Friedman), confined to a wheelchair by a stroke, Mother (Carolyn McCormick), a shell of a woman after years of living with a verbally abusive husband, Uncle (Michael Countryman), Father's sad sack widowed brother, and Son (Danny McCarthy) and Daughter (Hannah Bos), the two adult children who have returned home for their parents' anniversary. Father's vicious tongue is a deadly weapon, ready to wound anyone who dares to engage him. Even the family dog has fled. Unbeknownst to his family, Father has decided to sell the house. The high concept is that each of the five characters we meet leaves the house and is replaced by a new character played by the same actor. Before play's end, the stage is occupied by a much happier bunch -- a real estate agent, a painter-landscaper, a couple who might buy the house and their attorney. It's a clever stunt, but I refuse to glean any deep metaphysical thoughts from it. The cast is excellent (especially Friedman), the living room set by Antje Ellermann is picture perfect, Bobby Frederick Tilley II's costumes are fine and Oliver Butler's direction is smooth. I liked it enough that I bought a ticket for Eno's upcoming Broadway debut "The Realistic Joneses." Running time: 75 minutes, no intermission.