BWW Reviews: Denver Center's TWO THINGS YOU DON'T TALK ABOUT AT DINNER - Hysterical Satire!
The Denver Center presents the world premiere of Lisa Loomer's TWO THINGS YOU DON'T TALK ABOUT AT DINNER playing now through February 19th. TWO THINGS YOU DON'T TALK ABOUT AT DINNER is the hilarious story of Myriam's annual Passover Seder, featuring a multicultural mix of her family and friends. When the casual dinner conversation takes a turn, the night threatens to travel down that dangerous and dramatic path of politics and religion, severely testing the ties that bind. Is peace possible - even at the dinner table?
TWO THINGS YOU DON'T TALK ABOUT AT DINNER is an eye-popping look at several taboo
subjects, aside from religion and politics. The night's discussion also dabbles in aging, bulimia, cross-cultural adoption, interracial marriage, and even Shakespeare. This Seder also consists of lushes, weed, and blowjobs (oh my!) to make for a potentially interesting evening. The play by Lisa Loomer is an energetic script dealing with many contemporary issues, but mainly focuses on the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.
This show gets your brain synapses swirling from the first lines and sets a raucous synergy from the start. The potential for a Culture Clash of the ages is evident the second friends and family begin to arrive ("I'm a secular humanist, which means I'm here for the food"). This show is laugh out loud funny and satirizes American society's common stereotypes with a melting pot big city spin ("We're a regular UN here. Well this is LA"). Things start civil, but when the characters begin sharing their own personal "bondages" the verbAl Sparks fly … which brings me to the topic of timing. The cast needs to be more sensitive to audience responses, subtly pausing for laughs while remaining realistic. We didn't really have a chance to process some of the wonderfully witty and biting lines, because the actors were stepping on them. And a note on stage blocking … nice touch having The Players rotate positions at the table halfway through each act, giving the audience a more rounded perspective and allowing for some movement on stage as the characters traded barbed zingers. By intermission I was wondering how much worse this downward spiral of a dinner could get. That question was answered at the very start of Act II, when the plot plunged into the Israel-Palestine debate ("I just want to talk about why Israel is necessary. Then you can talk about why Israel is wrong"). One of the more profound statements of the show is, "Arguing is just war-lite." The story delves fairly deeply into the history of the Jewish people, the war with Palestine, and the atrocities committed by both sides, but still could have gone a little farther down that rabbit hole to really make an impact. I noticed and appreciated that the chaos and disarray of the dinner table symbolically matched the pace of the devolving discussion at hand. Even with serious subject matter, this play offers droll insights into heavy issues ("Religion is hard to avoid at a Seder!"). This show ends on a hopeful note and reminds us that "Life is both bitter and sweet."
Mimi Lieber as matriarch Myriam is magnetic and sharp. Her acerbic charisma commands the stage in this Denver Center debut. In contrast, Lenny Wolpe's performance as her husband Jack is endearing and understated. Karen Pittman as Myriam's daughter Nikki offers a solidly touching performance. Sam Gregory as Dan and Catherine E. Coulson (Twin Peaks' Log Lady) as Ginny provide much of the comic relief as the two resident lushes at the dinner table. Sala Iwamatsu as Kimiko and Caitlin O'Connell as Alice are fun and daring – their girl fight had me LMAO. Nasser Faris as Sam and John Hutton as Josh each give memorable performances and have the best lines in the entire script, words that make us think more broadly about the Israel-Palestine conflict and war in general. Gabriella Cavallero's performance as housekeeper Lupe is a small but important role, and she makes a lasting impact.