Periodically in the theatre certain works crop up at the most crucial of times arising in answer to some distinct exigency of their own era or generation.
These plays, while varying in tone and style, all fulfill a similar and much needed service: that of delivering a custard cream pie full in the face of the American zeitgeist.
The truth can be very painful.
The lack of truth can be fatal.
And truth, of a sort, is what these most unique plays offer.
They are the voices crying in the wilderness, the unheeded Cassandras, the graffiti writers on the walls of Belshazzar’s palace.
They are a diverse lot, from Elmer Rice’s scathing The Adding Machine, to Thornton Wilder’s By The Skin of Our Teeth, O’Neill’s Hairy Ape, Kopit’s Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Momma’s Hung You In the Closet and I’m Feeling So Sad and just about Albee’s entire body of works but especially The Goat, or Who is Slyvia?
They waver between comedies, very dark ones, or tragedies verging on the expressionistic, but all of them are either stained, drenched, or smudged by the absurd.
Each served as a statement to America about America whether a warning or diagnoses, an accusation or sermon, accolade or epitaph.
Wendy MacLeod’s House of Yes, a mad-cap, Freudian sitcom, deserves to be placed among these works.
First staged in 1990 House of Yes is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
That an inspired and solidly intelligent staging of MacLeod’s play has been mounted to mark this milestone is something worth celebrating as well.
On the eastern seaborne, spitting distance from the Kennedy’s compound, the Pascal clan hunkers down in their manor beset by a violent hurricane. But the tempest swirling outside, billed as the storm of the century, is nothing compared to the upheaval brewing within.
It is Thanksgiving, and Mrs. Pascal (Eileen T’Kaye), along with her youngest child Anthony (Nicholas McDonald) and her daughter Jackie-O (Kate Maher) awaits the arrival of Jackie’s twin brother Marty (Colin McGurk).
Now the Pascal family is a tad bizarre.
Let’s just say that compared to the Pascal family the Macbeths were a quaint couple with a charming accent and the Manson family a subject suitable for a Norman Rockwell canvas.
Things start off badly for the holiday reunion when Marty arrives with a surprise – his new fiancée Lesly (Jeanne Syquia).
What follows is a tumult of sex, incest, violence, madness, gunplay and an unrelenting obsession with the assassination of JFK, as Syquia and Maher engage in a game of sexual brinkmanship.
What’s the meaning of it all? Well your guess is as good as mine, and half the fun of the play is gathering around a table afterward sipping coffee and herbal tea while trying to work that out yourself.
But somewhere, deep down beneath it all, there is a sense of lost for what we were, or what we had the illusion of being, that ended with those three shots fired by a sad little runt from the sixth floor of a Dallas warehouse.
Producers Margie Mintz and Lee Sankowich, who directs as well, have staged a gem of a show that is close to flawless.
The cast they’ve assembled is not only first rate, but even more impressive, adept at meeting the demands of a very demanding play.
You’ll find actors of extraordinary talents, actors with wonderful careers, who are completely at sea when it comes to playing certain styles. Some are incapable of Shakespeare, other are utterly lost when faced with the requirements of period pieces. But the greatest “killing field,” the one littered with the mangled carcasses of countless thespians, is farce.
It takes talent to play comedy successfully.
To play farce successfully requires talent toned with technique, training and intelligence.
That Sankowich and Mintz give program credit to casting director Michael Donovan shows they realize the value of his contribution in assembling such a superb group of actors.
Adam Haas Hunter’s excellent set along with Rebecca Raines’ lighting design and Norman Kern’s sound work add their creative cohesion to the luster of the production.
The planets have aligned in a miraculous fusion zeroing down from the heavenly spheres with the terminus on this production at the Zephyr Theatre, and one would be foolish to miss the rarest of chances of seeing a remarkable staging of a remarkable play.
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‘House of Yes’
7456 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(between Fairfax and La Brea)
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: May 15, 22, 29; June 5, 12
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: May 9 (opening), 16. 23. 30; June 6, 13
• Sundays at 2 p.m.: May 10, 17, 24, 31; June 7, 14
Phone: (323) 960-5563 for Tickets or go to www.plays411.com/houseofyes
• General Admission: $25