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Allison Youngberg and Susan Louise O'Connor in Thanksgiving at the Lounge Theatre (Photo by Cali Bloomberg)
Allison Youngberg and Susan Louise O’Connor in Thanksgiving at the Lounge Theatre (Photo by Cali Bloomberg)

Thanksgiving

Reviewed by Deborah Klugman
The Lounge Theatre
Through June 23

Holiday gatherings frequently serve as framework for plays about dysfunctional families, and Thanksgiving, written by Tiffany Cascio and directed by Kitty Lindsay, is one of them. Although not nearly as clever as it tries to be, it features several choice roles for women, a few good laugh lines and, in the case of this Hollywood Fringe premiere production, one outstanding performance.

The very excellent work is generated by Susan Louise O’Connor, who plays Victoria, one of three squabbling adult siblings in attendance at their mom’s house for the requisite turkey meal.

A world-weary shoot-from-the-hip kind of gal, who’s done her share of drinking and drugs, Victoria would rather be anywhere else than home with the clan. But she’s come, albeit reluctantly, at the request of her conventional sister Chloe (Allison Youngberg). Chloe is engaged to be married to Luke (Gary Poux), the man she’s dead sure is Mr. Right, and she’s anxious for her entire family to meet him.

While the uncommonly stuffy Chloe and the deeply cynical Victoria could not be more different, they share a disdain for Starr (Asia Lynn Pitts), a Las Vegas stripper who rooms on a best-bud basis with their gay brother Max (Trip Langley). And while loopy mom Lilly (Sharon Spence) is, for different reasons, distanced from both her daughters, she’s inordinately fond of the mini-skirted cleavage-baring Starr, whom she embraces with far more exuberance than either of her female progeny.

The comedy turns on the foibles of the characters, with a central focus on Chloe and her mania for propriety (she’s planned place-cards for a dinner party of six). A secondary riff involves Lily’s propensity for spacey notions — angels, numerology, “white light” —that she insists are real and whose intrusion into their lives is a source of exasperation to her children.

A lot of the setups come off as contrived, commencing with the basic comic premise: Chloe’s insistence on introducing the buttoned-up Luke to her fractious family; more logical, given the character’s extreme priggishness, would be an effort to conceal them. And Youngberg’s one-note performance undermines the efforts at humor built around her character.

By contrast, O’Connor’s Victoria rings true from the moment she steps on stage. The other performances are mixed, but Poux also adds genuine humor as the ultra-sane guy trying to keep it together in the asylum.

The Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; http://hff17.com/4549; through June 23. Running time: 85 minutes with no intermission.

 

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