Reviewed by Lovell Estell III
Theatre of NOTE
Through May 20
The clan on display in Phinneas Kiyomura’s bleak comedy brings to mind that familiar adage of Tolstoy’s about unhappy families being unhappy in their own way.
Brothers David (Alex Elliot-Funk), Billy (Will McFadden) and Charles (Darrett Sanders) have gathered at the Kyoto home (attractive and serviceable design by Aaron Francis) of their eldest sibling Freddy (Joel Scher), for his upcoming marriage to the charming but creepy Naomi (Keiko Elizabeth). They are the children of a prominent family of wealth and privilege, and their malformed personalities oddly mirror the influence of class mentality, and the heavy hand of a tyrannical, abusive father.
It’s apparent early on that there is little trust, respect or love among them. David is easygoing but emotionally unstable; Billy is a dedicated idler whose constant skirt-chasing is frequent fodder for the tabloids; Charles is foul-mouthed, boorish and sadistic, and delights in browbeating everyone around him, particularly those audacious enough to challenge him, while Freddy, who flits onstage in a lovely kimono, is refined, dainty — and puts the G in gay.
It’s no surprise that this disparate gathering is fertile ground for laughs, tension, and much that is dark and muted, and Kiyomura cleverly mines it for all it’s worth. As the evening progresses, the uglier side of this family starts to emerge. Billy, David and Freddy have hatched a feckless scheme to prevent Charles from taking over the company, and gradually, long simmering resentments and rage — lots of it — start to engulf this “celebration.”
It all goes south during Act 2, where a carefully prepared meal of sushi, sake and whiskey unavoidably morphs into a messy and very bloody clash that brings in its wake not only daddy’s shocking appearance (in a way), but some unsettling revelations. Solidly directed by Alina Phelan, Kiyomura cleverly weaves light and shade, cruel and kind, into this darkly amusing tale. All performances are first-rate.
Theatre of NOTE, 1517 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood; in repertory through May 20. Call for schedule. (323)-856-8611 or http://theatreofnote.com. Running time: one hour and 50 minutes with an intermission.