Sunday, July 27, 2014

Pterodactyls **

This dark 1993 comedy by Nicky Silver, the play that first brought him wide recognition, has been revived off-off-Broadway in an earnest production by the Strain Theatre Company at Teatro Circulo. It provides an interesting opportunity to see an early version of the classic dysfunctional family Silver has written about as recently as The Lyons. The entire Duncan family of suburban Philadelphia is living in denial. Son Todd (Roger Manix), just returned home after five promiscuous years away, denies his mortality even though he has AIDS. His sister Emma (Lori Kee) is a hypochondriac whose severe memory problems keep her from facing her problems, which, it is strongly suggested, include sexual abuse by her father. The adulterous father Arthur (Dennis Gagomiros) is a bank president who confuses his own memories with his childrens’ and is too fond of his daughter. The mother Grace (Maggie Low) is an alcoholic who tries to find meaning in party planning, virtually indifferent to whether the event is her daughter’s wedding or her son’s funeral. Tommy McKorckle (Jeremiah Maestas), Emma’s fiance, is a sexually confused, orphaned homeless waiter whom Grace presses into service as the family maid. Silver’s blends the absurd, the lyrical, the shocking and, occasionally, the realistic. Navigating these rapid changes is a challenge that the actors meet with varying degrees of success. The looming dinosaur skeleton Todd is assembling from bones found in the backyard is a rather ponderous symbol of the family’s imminent extinction. I suspect that theatrical developments since 1993 have robbed the play of some of its shock value. Peri Grabin Leong’s living room set is quite attractive. Marisa Kaugars’s costumes are apt. Stephen Kaliski’s direction is a bit tentative. Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes including intermission.

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