note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Sheila Barth
The world premiere of Bob Glaudini’s searing, darkly funny new drama, “Vengeance is the Lord’s,” explores a criminal family’s sense of honor and justice, while dealing with its own sense of retribution, forgiveness, justice and vengeance.
Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois has gathered a power-packed cast in this two-act potent drama that centers around a shady family’s holiday dinner table, from Thanksgiving to Easter. Designer Eugene Lee’s impressive, rotating, four-sided set reveals the house’s facade and side entrance, dining room, a barely used bedroom and the kitchen.
Glaudini focuses on the family’s dynamics - their love and protection of each other despite adversity - while underplaying their violent sense of justice and business.
Patriarch Mathew Horvath, (Larry Pine), who has been divorced from his foul-mouthed, ailing wife, Margaret (Roberta Wallach) for 10 years, remains concerned about and respectful of her and the family. Pine’s role is an anomaly. He loves his grown-up children and remains deeply committed to them and carrying on the tradition of the family business- an automobile theft and chop shop, among other vices. When Mathew intones grace at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter dinner, his prayer is wholesome, full of love and hope for his family. However, his business dealings resort to murder at times to get the job done and cover his tracks. He seeks retribution for his 20-year-old daughter Cheryl’s murder, which occurred 10 years earlier. And he takes delight in trimming the Christmas tree and reading the Bible.
Mathew’s protege is eldest son Woody (Lee Tergesen), 30, who was imprisoned as a teen-ager, released, and following in his dad’s footsteps to take over the business. Woody’s take-charge demeanor cloaks a ruthless streak in his loyalty to his dad, his family, and the business. He sharply contrasts his pacifist, 22-year-old vegetarian brother, Donny (Karl Baker Olsen), who never graduated high school but wants to go to college. Fiercely protective, Woody whacks Donny into shape when necessary to get his attention.
The stabilizer in the Horvath clan is Roanne (Katie Kreisler), who is childless and divorced for 10 years. She maintains the cooking and housekeeping chores while trying to stop smoking and carrying on an affair with assistant sheriff Milo, (Trevor Long), who’s married and has four kids.
The family’s unity and harmony is threatened during a power outage caused by a raging ice storm on Thanksgiving, when grieving father Parcel Sytes (Johnny Lee Davenport) begs for answers about why the cops shot his teen-age son when the boy delivered a stolen car to Horvath’s shop. Mathew is believably empathetic to Sytes, Japhy Weideman’s lighting and Ben Emerson’s sound design intensify the play’s drama, especially during explosive scenes.
Amidst this disharmony, Margaret intends to meet her daughter Cheryl’s murderer before his parole, to decide whether to forgive him and support his parole after 10 years’ incarceration. She wants to meet him, eye-to-eye, to see if he’s truly repentant over murdering their “angel”. The rotating stage cleverly reveals the candlelit shrine in Cheryl’s untouched, unused bedroom.
Although “Vengeance is the Lord’s” is engrossing and entertaining, it has acoustical flaws. Several people complained about difficulty hearing the actors, especially Pine.
BOX INFO: Two-act, drama, written by Bob Glaudini, appearing through Dec. 12 at the Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave., Boston, with the LAByrinth Theatre Company, directed by Huntington’s artistic director, Peter DuBois. Performances are Tuesday-Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Saturday, 8 p.m.; select Sundays,7 p.m.; matinees, select Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays, at 2 p.m. Check also for post-performance discussions. Tickets are $25-$89; senior, military discounts, $5; subscriber, BU community discounts, $10; 35 Below tickets and back row tickets, $25; student rush tickets two hours before performance, $15, with valid ID. Call 617-266-0800, visit the BU Box Office or BCA Box Office, or huntingtontheatre.org.