nytheatre.com review by Anoush Froundjian
August 16, 2006
Clare's Room opens a door to a family whose secrets have been hush-hush...until now. Playwright Lisa del Rosso creates a family dealing with adversity through the lens of heightened drama. The family pleads with Lee (Melissa Teitel) to avoid telling this story, however, there are many secrets here, waiting to be told. They burst at the seams as the family waits in the hospital. Who's to blame for the family's dysfunction? Is it the middle daughter with the emotional problems—and weight problems; the abusive father who left the family early on; the ashamed, over-protective mother?
Directed by Colleen Brit, the play takes place in an Italian American household. Joan (Merel Julia) and Giuseppe (Victor Barranca) never knew what to do with Clare. This isn't the first time she's tried to kill herself and maybe they should've gotten her help sooner. Back then, no one sent their children to therapy. It's a family of three daughters: Lee, the oldest—the father's favorite—who left the country to pursue her art; Clare (Tiffany Green), the abusive, self-hating middle child, the problem child who always feels like the victim; and Jules (Jamie Carroll), the baby of the family, the one who's been bullied by her older sister since Lee has been gone.
After the parents' separation, Clare is the only one who stays in contact with her father, while the other daughters keep their distance. Giuseppe still resents Joan for divorcing him, even though he beat his children and never really knew how to raise girls, as he claims. The girls grew up with a stepfather (Bob Sonderskov) who is a now recovered alcoholic who thinks it's time for Joan to start taking control of her daughter's problem.
Clare is overweight and suicidal and abusive (like her father) and has pleaded with her mother to let her stay home from school to avoid her peers. Her mother lets her get away with more than her sisters ever could. She's Clare, after all.
Clare's Room is brilliant. The story is rich and the acting is fantastic. The flashbacks mesh perfectly with what's going on in the present. The play is golden, showing how warm characters with the best intentions can make a family so cold. Step inside and make yourself at home. It's cozy at first, but stay a while and you'll see why everyone's in a constant panic.