“The House of Yes,” a dark comedy written by Wendy MacLeod, directed by Hazen Cuyler, and produced by The Greenhouse Ensemble opened this weekend at Theatre West 97th and I still can’t get the play out of my head.
These characters are by far some of the most interesting I’ve seen on the stage in a while. I promise that once you meet them (especially Jackie-O) you will feel the same way!
The script by Wendy MacLeod sets the story of the Pascal family on Thanksgiving day as the family prepares for dinner in McLean, Virginia, 1983. As a hurricane rages outside, the Pascal’s oldest son, Marty is roughing the elements to get home with a surprise “guest” in tow. Jackie-O (it’s best to let her describe how she got the name) is clearly the most excitable of the bunch as we all await to meet Marty. In the meantime, we are introduced to the rest of the clan, Jackie-O, youngest son Anthony, and the family matriarch, Mrs. Pascal. Suffice it to say, this is no ordinary family and this is no ordinary story.
Obsessed with the Kennedy assassination and hiding some family secrets, the arrival of Marty and his guest help the story explode in directions that are quite unexpected and very funny. To say that the material is a bit unusual is an understatement, and in the hands of a weak cast or poor direction, it could easily go wrong. But Cuyler is a clever and resourceful director. He takes the material, his limited space and quickly creates a moment and story that seems surprisingly real and believable. I don’t mean to be vague, but you have to see it yourself to understand my references. Cuyler uses everything at his disposal, knows the material well enough to make the right choices and has a cast that is strong, confident and committed to their characters in a manner that beautifully brings this story to life.
Reanna Armellino is spot on as Jackie-O. Funny, scary, but in a very disturbingly sexy way, she navigates through this story with ease and immediately engages your attention to almost every nuance and expression. Cory Haynes as Marty has the perfect look and demeanor and reactions to make his character engaging and to a great extent, vulnerable. He does a certain Kennedy impersonation (God! I won’t even bother to describe it) that is chilling but oddly funny in his accuracy. I’m still twisted up about it. I also really liked Spencer Scott as the younger brother, Anthony and could see a resemblance to some kids I grew up with in him. His scenes with Jenny Ward (as Lesly) are so much fun to watch! As the "guest,' Jenny Ward is perfect, likable and strong. Jo Anne Sellers as Mrs. Pascal was dry to perfection as the mom who has survived (or perhaps helped cause) some of the dysfunction this family has endured. All in all, these were excellent performances. Dark comedy is a tricky genre, but the talent behind this production is evident and abundant.
The guy sitting next to me described the play as a “Mind fuck…in a good way,” as we were getting up to leave at the end. I have to agree… it is dark, funny, different, with captivating performances and characters that you won't soon forget.
There is only one last chance to see the play this weekend and meet the folks behind this very unique theatre ensemble. Go do it. For more information, click here:http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2599992.