Theatre Mirror Reviews - "APPROPRIATE"
"What Happened in Boston, Willie"
Reviews of Current Productions
Note: Entire Contents Copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone
Reviewed by Tony Annicone
The latest show at Trinity Rep is "Appropriate" a 2014 Obie Award winning sardonic three act play by Branden Jacob-Jenkins. Although he is an African-American playwright writing about a well-educated middle class thoroughly dysfunctional Southern white family with dirty hidden American secrets, he makes it explicitly clear that "Appropriate" isn't about race although the subject is implied but never explored. Set in Arkansas in a crumbling plantation home, every estranged member of the Lafayette descends upon the old homestead to settle the accounts of the newly dead patriarch. As his three adult children sort through a lifetime of hoarded mementos and junk, they collide over clutter, debt and a contentious family history. But after a disturbing discovery surfaces among their father's possessions, the family's reunion takes a turn for the explosive, unleashing a series of crackling surprises and confrontations. Even though this show is billed as a drama, there are many comic moments interspersed in it. This magnificently talented cast manages this throughout the play as they come to the house for their inheritance but receive a thoroughly shocking surprise about their father's misdeeds of the past. The family members certainly know how to push each others buttons to get a rise out of them especially in the huge argument scene. The family members include Toni, the dysfunctional sibling recently divorced who stuck around and sacrificed her life and her happiness to take care of her ailing father during his final illness. She is also the mother of a troubled son, Rhys and now has to defend her father's honor and manage this post-death mess amid the throes of their gruesome discoveries. Big brother Bo had a fancy career, is successfully established in New York City with a high middle class family, his Jewish wife, Rachael and their two children, Ainsley and Cassidy. Estranged brother, Frank now Franz, a self designated victim who got himself into all sort of trouble, arrives with his New Age girlfriend, River. He comes home not only for the funeral but to apologize and make amends for all the wrongs he committed. River eggs him on even when the arguments are raging around her. Director Brian Mertes picks strong performers for these demanding roles and they deliver powerful well nuanced performances. His direction is spot on in this terrific play.
The story isn't really just a story about the loss of a parent but it rattles the skeletons hidden in the closet amid the pile of clutter in this old slave plantation. An important find among this clutter is an old photo album that keeps appearing and disappearing and its contents are extremely shocking and frightening to behold. Phyllis Kaye commands the stage as Toni, while she runs roughshod over all her relatives. Toni swears and rants and raves at her family, creating a character that audiences both hate and love at the same time. Her comic delivery is perfect, a fact I have known since I first saw her in "Lend Me a Tenor" as Diana at this theatre. She is phenomenal in this show. Fred Sullivan shines as Bo. He always inhabits any role he is given, delivering a multilayered performance and being able to change moods and characters at a split second. His mood changes and softens when he speaks to his family and becomes more on edge and tenser when he talking with his sister and brother. His emotional breakdown near the end of the show is marvelous to behold. Angela Brazil delivers the goods as Bo's Jewish wife, Rachael, in an underwritten role. Her acting chops come through especially in her astounding monologue in Act 3 where she entrances the audience excellently and shocks them with some potent swear words. Mauro Hantman also does a splendid job with Frank, the black sheep of the family. His angst and brilliance as an actor come through in this well written role. His angst and sadness come through in his monologue near the end of the show. So for a look at a contemporary show with splendid acting in an extremely well written script, be sure to catch "Appropriate" at Trinity Rep. This show will leave you realizing your life has to be a hell of a lot better than this family of misfits who have the legacy of their father to haunt them. Usually a family returns to go through the years of accumulated stuff, sell the place and return to their respective lives which is the appropriate thing to do but in this show the audience learns that with this family nothing is the right thing anymore. This powerhouse show is a must see show of this autumn season. Tell them Tony sent you!
APPROPRIATE (6 October to 6 November)
Trinity Rep, Dowling Theatre, 201 Washington St, Providence, RI
1(401)351-4242 or www.trinityrep.com