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Review: The House of Yes (Hubris Productions)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: The House of Yes (Hubris Productions)   
  
The House of Yes 

Written by Wendy MacLeod  
Directed by Jacob Christopher Green  
Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru April 28   |  tickets: $25   |  more info
  
Check for half-price tickets 
  
  
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Review: The House of Yes (Hubris Productions)

  

Hubris Productions presents

  

The House of Yes

Review by Lawrence Bommer

It’s a new and, I hope, endangered theatrical hybrid: The House of Yes by Wendy (Apocalyptic Butterflies) MacLeod is sub­titled "a sub­urban Jacobean play." Well, it’s certainly as gro­tesquely cruel as The Duch­ess of Malfi – but it wants to be more than a campy update, which is just where it fails.

Set during a hur­ricane in Thank­sgiving 1988, the black com­edy depicts the Pascals, an amoral upper-class Virginia family who are so fixated on their neigh­bors, the Ken­nedy clan, that they ignore their own moral decay.

At the head of the twisted bunch is the matriarch, a deep-dyed snob who’s helpless in the worst passive-aggressive way. Compara­tively uncor­rupt­ed, younger son Anthony is a college drop­out who’s woefully un­ready for real life. The crazi­est Pascal is daughter Jackie-O. Glam­orous, spoiled and insane when not medi­cated, she’s the evil twin sister of Marty, a brother whom Jackie-O loves with more than sisterly affection.

Marty returns for Thanksgiving with his new fiancé Leslie, a sweet-tempe­red waitress with the distinct ad­vantage of not being a Pascal. When he blandly announces, "I love her and I’m trying to follow procedure," Jackie-O springs to defend her incestuous rights. The twisted sister entices him into a distur­bed Kennedy impersonation where she dres­ses like her namessake in tea­sed wig, pill-box hat, and blood-spat­tered dress; brother and sister wave from an imaginary motorcade, then Marty mimes being shot as Jack­ie-O scre­ams hyster­ically. (It’s no funnier than it sounds.) After timid Anthony seduces Leslie (their decency draws them together), Leslie tells Marty to take her back to New York. En­raged, Jackie-O then repl­ays the motor­cade game with a ven­geance.

The playwright got her title from a grafi­tto she found in a New Haven bathroom: "It seemed the perfect title for a house of immorali­ty. No one has ever said `No’ to these people." As MacLeod imagines them, the Pascals are insu­lated by wealth and, despite their unearned privilege, unrepentantly ar­rogant and totally 1%.

Unfortunately, in this weakly wrought 85-minute offering MacLeod hasn’t imagined them enough. If the play means to update the Jacobeans’ condemnations of vicious 17th cen­tury Ital­ian noblemen, it fails: It supplies too lit­tle social context for a class critique. Though Leslie’s lower-class origins are suffi­ciently documented, we never learn how rich the Pascals are or how they got that way. When Lesiey turns on Jackie-O and asks, "What have you done for anybody?," the indignation seems unear­ned: The issue of the Pascals’ parasitism was never broach­ed. (Mere­ly emulating the Ken­nedys is proof of stupidity, not venali­ty.)

Review: The House of Yes (Hubris Productions)

Rather than an anti-privilege diatri­be (or an attack on Reagan and Thatcher as first conceived), Jacob Christopher Green‘s slow and creepy staging treats House of Yes like a creepy neo-Gothic pot­boi­ler. But the pot never boils because from the outcome is obvious from the start. There is one touch­ing, well shaped scene– where Jason Dabrowski‘s sweetly inept Anthony stumbles into sex with Patricia Moy’s equally innocent Leslie–that’s one of the few mo­ments where the characters relax into humans.

Though defeated by the staging’s tepid tempo, a strong cast do all they can to turn easy targets into cunning stere­oty­pes. As the regal and sepulchrally sly mother, Patti Feinstein combines the vaporous delicacy of O’Neill’s Mary Tyrone with the hauteur that Nancy Mar­chand brought to “Lou Grant”. Play­ing bitch queen Jackie-O with de­mented vigor, Jessica Maynard conveys all the reneg­ade narcis­sism that would entice her into incest with a twin. Charlie Rasmann plays him with weak-kneed imbecility.

Inevitably their hard work gets wrecked by a play that seems to live only for assorted shock effects and a bloody conclusion. I can’t give it away but it reso­lves noth­ing and only ex­poses the hollowness of what preceded it. Whate­ver its hoped-for in­dictment of the selfish rich, House of Yes is all symptoms and no diagnosis.

  

Rating: ★★

  

  

House of Yes continues through April 28th at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sunday at 3pm.  Tickets are $25, and are available by phone (773-404-7336) or online at Tix.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at HubrisProductions.com.  (Running time: 85 minutes with no intermission)


     


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