note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Richard Pacheco
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins play “Appropriate” is furiously funny and disturbing at the same time, a riveting piece of theater deftly performed by a strong cast. It is a massively dysfunctional family in full tilt, full speed ahead spare no energy. It is a rambunctious free for all with no holds barred as this family gets together to settle the property of their dead father and end up unearthing some dark secrets long hidden and perhaps best kept hidden.
This three-hour extravaganza rampages along like a runaway train barreling through anything or anyone in its path. The first hour is a blood fest of hurled insults anti Semitic jibes that makes the current presidential race almost look tame. The family is inexorably drawn into the past and their dead father’s apparent sins, which come to light and their own failings and inept relationships with each other. All sorts of hidden racism rises to the surface like lava from a volcano, oozing everywhere. Digging through the trash the family finds more trash and embarrassing moments from their past. There are remnants which appear in photos.
There is no real revelation about the dead old man thought, more mere speculation and intriguing dark corners to his life kept hidden until now.
There are some winning performances here throughout. Phyllis Kay is an angry and bitter divorcee, the sister Toni, who both regrets and resents sacrificing her life to taking care of the ailing dad and her alcoholic and drug addicted brother Frank. She can be merciless going after anything or anyone in her sights including Frank’s equally hippy fiancé 23 year old River. Kay is often hilarious as in the scene where she is totally drunk and even more merciless with her well-aimed barbs. Kay delivers an impeccable performance that is a delight to watch.
Fred Sullivan Jr. as Beauregarde is the epitome of a southern gentleman at a loss and out of touch with both his past and his father’s. He is robust and passionate in the role.
Mauro Hantman is on target as the drug addled, and recovering drunk Frank (Francois) who is a totally mess but underneath appears to be kind, just out of touch and a kind of hippie. He seems to have little clue about how he has impacted other san kept his distance from the family and his past failings and there are many. It is a sharp and polished performance with many fine touches.
Angela Brazil is Beauregarde’s Jewish wife, the brunt of many anti Semitic verbal attacks from the other family members, often merciless. Her patience eventually dissipates under the relentless onslaught and she turns tail and attacks them back with rare viscous humor in a biting on target monologue where she rips the in laws to shreds.
Marina Morrisey is Franks’ flower child like girlfriend River, who is a bit oblivious to the world around her and the people and atmosphere she finds herself drgeed in without warning or proper preparation. She is often innocent eyed and massively out of touch, convinced of her own vision ins spite of what she sees in front of her. It is an excellent performance, right on the mark.
The rest of the cast, Alec J. Weinberg as Rhys, Emeline Easton as Cassidy, Ronin W. Scott as Ainsley are all terrific.
Director Brian Mertes keeps is all moving despite its length and keeps his eye on the offbeat and the bizarre which he emphasizes. The set by Sara Brown emphasizes the dark, at times creepy decaying atmosphere of the dilapidated plantation with flair and style. Only the gauzy like screen that comes down between scenes is a bit annoying.
Yet for all its nearly rabid and pointed dialogue the family never really comes to terms with what their father did or even many of the things they did over the years.It is well worth seeing for a hilarious and provocative play that is well acted and written.