The House of Yes
nytheatre.com review by Anthony C.E. Nelson
April 28, 2007
TheatreRats' production of Wendy MacLeod's slight but amusing play The House of Yes is just that; a slight but amusing diversion with a couple of notable successes.
The play takes place entirely in the gloomy Washington, D.C. area mansion of the dysfunctional Pascal clan, who are deeply entwined in the city's political gossip and fixated on the Kennedys in particular. On this night, young Jackie-O is in a frenzy as she prepares the house for the return of her brother Marty from college. Her busy excitement is interrupted by the news that Marty is bringing home his fiancée Lesly, a fact that Jackie's mother and brother Anthony have tried to shield her from. Jackie, you see, has a shadowy past involving a number of breakdowns, and an unnatural fixation on Marty.
The stage is set for dynamic family drama, which occurs as Marty and Lesly arrive soaked to the skin from the hurricane that is going on outside. Lesly, of course, is not the debutante that this family expects, but a simple girl employed at a Donut King franchise. She is taken aback by the opulence of the family's home, but this fish-out-of-water angle isn't really explored in MacLeod's script. The playwright instead is more interested in the twisted lines of affection that link the play's four young people, as Lesly immediately senses something sexual in the air between Jackie-O and Marty, making her susceptible to the puppy-dog affections of the virgin Anthony, who has theoretically dropped out of Princeton to care for his sister but doesn't seem to do much besides yell at her to take her meds from time to time.
The play's plot is thin, but fun, as Jackie-O does her best to draw Marty back into their days of hinted-at incest. There's not a lot of suspense in this comic drama, so the fun comes from tightly drawn, absurd characters and wisecracks, which this production certainly has in abundance. The ensemble have all created believable eccentrics Nick Mitchell's squealing younger brother is the most fully realized of the bunch, full of energy and glee at his siblings' failings), but unfortunately Christina Brucato seems to be skimming the surface of Jackie-O, and we don't see in her the intensity that she needs to drive this play to its conclusion.
Director Lauren Reinhard and set designer Alexis M. Hadsall have done a fabulous job creating the impression of an opulent mansion with little more than a variety of furniture and one simple platform. Lighting designer Mike Gugliotti also contributes by adding a gloomy tone to the setting. Reinhard keeps the pace moving admirably and deals beautifully with the farcical appearances of the characters, but should probably focus on her actors' timing and making sure all the verbal witticisms are given space to land. Costume designer David Withrow makes some odd choices: the script specifically calls for Jackie-O's Halloween recreation of her namesake to be spattered with bits of macaroni brains and it is not, and Sarah Burns (Lesly) is saddled with a truly bizarre hairdo.
MacLeod's play doesn't have a lot of depth to it and it takes a very strong production to keep you from realizing this while watching it, and TheatreRats does not quite accomplish that. But they do create a quick and enjoyable evening with some memorable performances and a number of laugh-out-loud moments.