Yes, that Lewis Black: “What I find most disturbing about Valentine’s Day is, look, I get that you have to have a holiday of love, but in the height of flu season, it makes no sense.” Black has written a fast-paced, and often light and silly (if not unbalanced) farce that hardly makes a sideways glance at politics or even his characteristic constant affect of cynicism. He slightly breaks the mold of the classic farce in some ways successfully; in others, uncomfortably.
The result may be a funny evening of theatre that will leave the audience thinking, “It was really good, but why did they do THAT thing, or THAT OTHER thing?” There is much of the traditional door slamming and arrivals and departures in the knick of time to avoid calamity. To this, perhaps to lampoon the WASP veneer of the family at its center, Black steps up the vulgarity. This venture into the blue is only voiced by the younger characters but racks up points in all forms of George Carlin’s seven words, with “asshole” and “douchebag” added to the mix. A 14-year-old getting an abortion is mentioned in a comic light. The father is a corporate vice-president. There are 3 injections of fourth-wall-breaking flashback narration that are completely superfluous. Add to this a magical effect whenever the same character puts on her headphones and turns on her Walkman to tune out the world. Finally after a classic set up of the ex-boyfriend showing up on the day of the wedding, prerequisite shenanigans and innuendo, and a carbon copy Beau Jest (James Sherman) twist, the play is brought toward its neat conclusion with a page-long dramatic monologue from another genre.
The play has had a short but successful production history:
Jan 8-25, 2015: Georgia Ensemble Theatre, Roswell, GA
Jan 9-28, 2015: Florida Repertory Theatre / Ft. Myers FL
Jan 16-Feb 1, 2014: Racine Theatre / Racine, WI
Feb 6-14, 2015: John Elliott Theatre / Ontario, Canada
Production requirements are all feasible for most theatrical companies. The cast is 7 (3m, 4f) with an age range from 50s to 17. The play is most convincingly cast as all Caucasian. Five characters are from the same biological family. The only setting is the living room of an upper-class colonial revival in a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1981. All action takes place in this one location (with a visible staircase to the second floor and at least 3 doors). Act 1 and 2 are each performed in continuous action. There is much suggested pop music from the period which will require appropriate permissions. Props include wrapped wedding presents and 2 anatomically correct Polynesian fertility statues (one with a breakaway penis).
My recommendations are mixed. The playwright is an American. The story is relatable to a broad audience. The setting is MID-WESTERN!!!!!!! The dialogue is witty but the language will push this play out of consideration for most theatres who might read this blog as guidance. I look forward to reading Mr. Black’s NEXT play.
Available for lending from Northwestern University Library