Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Pain & The Itch"

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note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Larry Stark


"The Pain & The Itch"

by Bruce Norris
Directed by M. Bevin O'Gara

Assistant Director Meghan Dalton
Set Design by Christina Todesco
Lighting Design by James McNamare
Costume Design by Angela Jajko
Sound Design & Composer Aaron Mack
Properties Design by Basia Goszczynska
Dramaturg Kristan Seemel
Production Manager Sarah Cohan
Associate Production Manager Margot Dubois
Assistant Stage Manager Robyn Jones
Stage Manager Amanda LaForge

Mr. Hadid.......................................Cedric Lilly
Clay...............................................Joe Lanza
Kelly..........................................Aimee Doherty
Kayla...Rebecca Skye Hamberg/Abigail Steinman/Helen Steinman
Kalina...........................................Philana Mia
Cash.....................................Dennis Trainor, Jr.
Carol.......................................Nancy E. Carroll

Bruce Norris' play "The Pain & The Itch" is a sort of sub-textual puzzle. At the center is Clay (Joe Lanza) --- a good upper-middle-class house-husband trying to do everything right. But in Christina Todesco's immaculate upper-middle set, Kelly, his wife (Aimee Doherty), Cash, his brother (Dennis Trainor, Jr.) and even Carol, his mother (Nancy E. Carroll) all insult him to his face --- when they're not ignoring him and everything he says. They are apparently ignoring the family secret revealed at play's end, but articulating it doesn't mean facing or dealing with it. Life, however artificial, must go on, right?

The family employs Kalina, a baby-sitter (Philana Mia) who spends most of her time chasing Kayla, their pre-school daughter --- when she's not explaining in graphic detail the fact that she had been kidnapped and serially raped during the Balkan wars that killed the rest of her family.

Apparently the family in on its more or less best behavior because they've invited to dinner Mr. Hadid (Cedric Lilly), who has his own tale of family massacre in his African home. As the filial furor tornadoes around him, Hadid sits as a mostly silent observer who seems as irrelevent as wallpaper. When everyone is involved in sniping at each other, why even notice a guest?

The actions and insults are witty and outrageous by turns, Clay tries heroically to maintain his dignity as the main attraction in the family bear-pit, and whichever of the darlings (Rebecca Skye Hamberg, Abigail Steinman or Helen Steinman) who play Kayla on any given night is delightful. The entire cast is excellent at blithely ignoring each other's feelings, and upper-middle-class mores get filleted like flounder --- and a wilfully good time is had by all.

The acting is superb.

"The Pain & The Itch" (13 March - 4 April)
COMPANY ONE
Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA
1(617)277-7032

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | USHER | SEATS | INTERMISSION | CURTAIN |