Friday, February 22, 2008

Daughters move in, and the laughs ensue | www.azstarnet.com ®


Daughters move in, and the laughs ensue www.azstarnet.com ®

Daughters move in, and the laughs ensue
By Kathleen Allen
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona Published: 02.22.2008

OK, here's a really scary statistic: According to the Census Bureau, more than 22 million adult children live with one or both parents.

That has the potential for disaster, as we learn in Janet Neipris' "Natives," which Invisible Theatre opened Wednesday.

Viola — named after an instrument in the New York Philharmonic — is the divorced matriarch of a family of three grown daughters who descend on her New York City brownstone the summer of 1994. They all pile into Viola's place about three weeks before she is set to head off for France for the summer. It's her big adventure to mark her 50th birthday and a new lease on life.

One daughter's marriage is breaking up; the other is pregnant by a bisexual man from the Bronx who lays claim to the title of "sultan," though they all suspect he didn't come by it honestly; and the third has just been dumped by her lover, who happens to be a woman. That's a bit of news to Vi, as we come to know Mom.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you. Vi was just, well, surprised.
Gail Fitzhugh directed this comedy with a sense of timing and appreciation. She let the play breathe, which allowed the multitude of one-liners the room needed to land and get laughs.

But she got plenty of help from a cast headed by Susan Claassen as Violet. Claassen serves as the narrator, telling the story from the mother's perspective. She had the lioness' share of the lines and the laughs, and she knew how to deliver them. Claassen can massage an audience, drawing out a laugh with just a look or a shrug. She did that here, and the audience gave her the adoration she wanted.
She can be a powerful presence, sometimes to the detriment of the other actors sharing the stage with her.

But in this production she was a good mother, allowing those who played her daughters to shine, too.
And they did. Jillian Courtney, Natalie Sutherland and Dallas Thomas as her three off-spring had an easy rapport with one another and a naturally loving/contentious relationship with Viola. They each took their roles and owned them.

Filling out the cast were Eddie Young as Gary, Bo's food-loving husband who reads cookbooks in bed rather than paying attention to her; Alex Garday as Arnold, the sultan; and Burney Starks as Avery, Violet's surprise beau and the man she hopes to head to France with.

"Natives" is not brilliant theater. While it's funny, it doesn't really stick much beyond the final curtain.
You like these people, their relationships, but, ultimately, you really don't care much what happens to them.

But while you may forget why, you won't forget that you laughed. Plenty. This is a funny, well-produced play that makes for a jovial evening.

And if you are among the 22 million with grown kids at home, Lord knows you could use something to laugh about.

● Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.come or 573-4128.