If you want a sweet, quiet, sedate time at the theater, keep driving up the highway, because this ain’t it. Grieving for Genevieve is a shot of adrenaline where three rambunctious sisters are thrown back together, for better or worse, to deal with the middle sister’s upcoming wedding.
When the eldest sister unexpectedly returns home for the event, sparks fly filled with old barbs, Baltimore style, hon. Meaning, that no matter what ugliness is said, or daggered looks of contempt and disgust , or even brawling on the tables or floor, the dysfunctional family ties are anchored in a bedrock of genuine affection.
Of course, you couldn’t tell it from the foul language the characters hurl at each other like flaming grenades, or the chest thumping of primal rule, but it’s there, in the unspoken words of what the characters don’t say to each other. Who needs to say I love you when a fu^#king expletive will do? Somehow, the wretched family thrives on blast to the max rough-housing and beer guzzling to show how much they care for each other.
Oh, and if the F word gives you the heebie jeebies, be warned. It’s the most prominent word in the expletive-laden script and is deployed at decibel levels from quiet and demure, even sweet, to seething bone-chilling whispers, to rooftop screeching, often while real items are thrown about for good measure. It’s the playwright’s go-to word that pops out at any and every f’u^#king opportunity, which is quite timely, now that a fu^#king bird is flying around town spouting Chekhov.
From the eldest to the youngest, the sisters act out according to how they’ve been in their younger years, with Deborah Randall, Venus founder, producer and director, playing Danni the smart one, Ty Hallmark as Delilah the bad one, and Kelsey Painter as the youngest Angel, the mousey “damaged” one.
The overriding specter of malcontent is the chain smoking, hell-bent on getting her way, damned the consequences Genevieve played with verve by Karen Costanzi . Somehow, Genevieve spawned this gaggle of misfits and still finds ways to influence their every move, despite everybody’s efforts to live for themselves. Danni made the biggest escape by moving to New York barely surviving by repairing rock guitars.
Bridezilla Delilah is a seamstress of erotic lingerie while soft-spoken Angel was relegated to a convent to be sure she had a roof over her head and protection of the highest order. No matter that she guzzles leftover beer and puffs a smoke when she can, Angel, played by Kelsey Painter, quietly makes the best of wherever she’s planted while biding her time til she can bolt to freedom. It’s Angel who is relegated to sit with and care for Genevieve, who suddenly becomes debilitated by a stroke, and it’s not a pretty sight.
It’s at that point, however, when the sisters seem to rally together, ever so slightly, finally on a common mission higher than themselves, to bring a modicum of comfort to their mother in her final days, or at least bring her a beer and a smoke.
Deborah Randall directs with a no-holds barred approach and her actors deliver full throttle, overturning chairs, busting bottles, belching on cue, very Sam Shephard-like. Where else would an ensemble of four actresses require a fight choreographer? (James Jager has a lot to work through, where even taking measurements for bridal wear is an opportunity for Danni to “assume the position” perpetrator style.)
Grieving for Genevieve
Closes June 30, 2013
Venus Theatre Play Shack
21 C Street
1 hour, 30 minutes with no intermission
Thursdays thru Sundays
Yes, my friends, it’s a whole new reality out there in the Play Shack, the likes of which you won’t see anyplace else.
That’s because no one directs like Randall who wouldn’t know a timid moment if it bit her in the derriere. She goes all out, too, when performing, including unabashedly stripping down to her skivvies, and she gets the same flint-hard portrayals from her actors. They look straight into the oncoming mayhem and honestly, they don’t flinch.
The actors raided closets for costumes which run the gamut from Genevieve’s sensible elder-wear, mix-matched separates and an obligatory assortment of totally non-cool fanny packs, to punkish revealing tops and jeans for Delilah, no nonsense stomper boots for Danni and an assorted collection of erotic fantasy wear enticingly hanging in the sewing corner.
Small yet gutsy, Venus Theatre continues to have the vision to produce relatively new plays – Genevieve had its first and only showing in 2005. Upon reading the script, Randall noted the striking honesty among the characters and their “lack of apology” for being who and what they are. While not an easy play to watch , Grieving for Genevieve shows the untidy realities of people who don’t know how to care for themselves or each other, yet find a way to bitch-slap their way through.
Grieving for Genevieve by Kathleen Warnock . Directed by Deborah Randall . Produced by Venus Theater . Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson.