Are you hungry for a heaping helping of deceit? Playwright Mark Jason Williams’ work Straight Faced Lies certainly left me craving more. The witty comedy offers up a Thanksgiving tale rife with familial induced chaos. Can kids and parents enjoy a peaceful all-American meal?
This is not your standard cloyingly sweet family togetherness tale. Cathy (Kim Tuvin) seems like an apron-clad mom from the happy-go-lucky 1950s. Her overbearing, deceptive, naive nature is evident as she prepares for the arrival of her husband. The question is will he ever come?
Cathy’s kids each struggle with the memories of a childhood gone wrong while trying to exist in the present. Melissa (Rachel Manteuffel) is an independent woman, seeking a loveless relationship on her terms. Conversely, her sister Marie (Jenny Donovan) is hopelessly co-dependent, falling more for material marvels than the hearts of the men she dates. Their brother James (John Brougher) struggles between following his mother’s hefty demands and letting love determine the outcome of his life.
Exerting her dominance at the worst possible times, Cathy serves a sweet batch of commotion. Even though her anecdotes are hilarious, I often felt it was hard to separate the lies from the truth. The same can be said for her children who seemed confused by her recollection of the past.
As the story unfolds, challenging questions surrounding shame, deception, and utter insanity are seamlessly woven together with “revolving” transitions on a circular stage. Scenic and Lighting Designer Christopher Annas-Lee created a versatile, simple set which contributed greatly to the flow of the entire show. The living room provided an excellent template for chaotic moments. Glowing table lamps invited us into many intimate conversations.
Straight Faced Lies
by Mark Jason Williams
Directed by Ryan S. Taylor
Details and tickets
As James continues on his quest for independence he is confronted by a question that plagues us all; are we becoming our parents? Perhaps James’ denial coupled with her daughter’s failed relationships forces Cathy to acknowledge her parental pitfalls. The ensemble scenes driven by Cathy’s (Kim Tuvin) desperate last attempt at family togetherness were chilling.Tuvin offers an amazingly emotionally deranged performance.
Mr. Williams’ words were brought to life by a brilliantly comedic cast. The dialogue was rich with puns for days. I also enjoyed the fact that each scene had an obvious intention, not one word was wasted. Developed characters pulled the audience deeper into the family’s epic failures. It was obvious to me that the script was the foundation for the phenomenal show.
However, it was director Ryan S. Taylor’s job to create an amazing structure once the foundation was in place. Taylor’s style allowed the characters to interact in a natural format despite the crazy circumstances. This was especially evident when multiple climactic scenes occurred simultaneously on stage. During the overlapping dialogue, I was delighted to experience the magnitude of each character’s dilemma. These moments were deliciously delicate.
So in the end, do we lie to the ones we love to protect them or is deception the demon that haunts our hearts?
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