Sunday, April 15, 2018

Of Good Stock—Lyon Theatre—NE Portland

Life On the Edge

    This dark comedy is written by Melissa Ross and directed by Devon Lyon.  It is playing at the Triangle space, 1785 NE Sandy Blvd., through April 28th.  For more information, go to

    Eleanor’s line from “The Lion In Winter” seems appropriate to describe this play, when she’s talking about her clan, “well, what family doesn’t have its ups and downs.”  True enough for all families and this one seems to be laced with love, humor and a dose of spite.  It reminds me a lot of a play I directed some years ago, “Crimes of the Heart,” where you wanted to give them a good spanking sometimes but couldn’t help but love them.
    This family consists of Jess (Morgan Cox), the practical one and is the inheritor of their Cape Cod, family home, who has just gone through a serious operation.  Her husband of some years is Fred (Andy Sims), the ever-loving and ever-patient mate, a food critic.  They are to be joined soon by her sister, Amy (Kailey Rhodes), not the sharpest knife in the drawer, who is about to get married to her boyfriend, Josh (John Zoller), who seems more than a little nervous about this union.  Celia (Jamie Langton), is a bit of a tippler, who goes through men like water, will be arriving with her newest conquest, Hunter (Austin Hillebrecht), a down-home boy and a bit of a drifter.
There is another family member who hovers, unseen, over them, the specter of their Lear-like father, who was a famous writer, ruled his family with an iron fist and plowed through women like it was a sport.  During the course of the play secrets will be revealed, old wounds opened up, tears of regret and of joy shed, and new paths forged for a deeper understanding of friendship and love.  Family is never easy but having none is perhaps harder.  My favorite scene was the infamous F-bomb encounter with the girls—priceless and delivered perfectly by pros. 
    Really can’t tell you more without giving away discoveries an audience should make.  But, trust me on this, the Author certainly knows Family Gatherings, so you just might catch yourself identifying with parts of it and them.  And Lyon is an actor’s director, pacing the show at a break-neck speed at times with over-lapping dialogue, then lets a lull settle in for quieter moments.  And what a cast he has delivered to us!  They are priceless, especially the ladies, and so convincing I thought I was intruding at times on a real family’s outing.
    The fellows are also good in their roles, letting us in on those man-cave mentalities of guys when they are bonding.  But it’s really the ladies, show, folks, and they are outstanding!  Jess is the obvious choice for the “head” of the family but “uneasy lies the crown” on her head.  Cox plays the role like a coil wound up tight waiting to burst at any time.  Rhodes is a marvel as the sister not to be underestimated, because just as soon as you think she’s easy to read, she lashes out in another direction altogether.  And Langton is super as the sister who laughs and loves too easily on the outside but is a deeply unhappy person within.  All three first-rate!
    I highly recommend this show as it’s not to be missed.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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