BWW Reviews: Neil LaBute's IN A DARK DARK HOUSE Built on a Solid Foundation in its Los Angeles Premiere at The Matrix Theatre
Intense, riveting tale of two estranged brothers, and as expected with a Neil LaBute script, reveals the darker, deeper secrets of familial loves that maybe should have remained hidden. Yes, LaBute does go there. And how! In a Dark Dark House opens with older brother Terry visiting Drew during his stint in rehab. Drew has been court ordered to remain under medical lock and key for observation due to a recent unexplainable DUI incident. Drew wants Terry to back him up on some childhood occurrences that might explain/excuse away Drew's current 35-year-old mental misbehavior. Drew has told his doctors that an older boy Todd had sexually abused him as a teenager. But since Todd's now untraceable, Terry's recollection would help validate Drew's stories.
Aaron McPherson as Terry and Shaun Sipos as Drew really make this dysfunctional sibling non-relationship oh-so-real! Drew, the well-to-do disbarred lawyer with a wife and kids, has always relied on his big brother to bail him out of any and all situations. Aside from Christmas and a week after Terry's birthday, that's the only other time Drew reaches out to him. Sipos totally convinces as the trying-to-be-hip, needy, out-of-control, sycophantic (Spoiler Alert!) user that he is. But it's McPherson who takes LaBute's as always complex script and runs with it. McPherson's Terry starts off so controlled, so strong. Then, like opening Russian nesting dolls, reveals deeper insides of anger, of frustration, of rage, of desperation, of complete self-doubt. See, Todd was Terry's friend and Terry had warned Drew to stay away from Todd.
After the brothers' explosive encounter and Drew's abuse revelation, Terry hunts down Todd to -- what? Confront him? To seek revenge for his brother? To look him in the eye after all these years?
Terry's search leads him to a mini-golf course that Todd owns in a nearby town. Terry finds only a teenage girl there cleaning the grounds. This girl, Jennifer, turns out to be Todd's 15-year-old daughter. They converse and flirt and banter and talk inappropriately. Remember, Terry's almost her father's age. As any typical bored teenage girl is wont to do, Jennifer flirts ('Yes'), then does the backwards dance ('No'), then repeats again, and again until she's off driving with Terry in his car. Annie Chernecky's perfect as this hot-&-cold, cautious, innocent, but horny teenager.
Larry Moss directs his actors with a firm hand making sure they all have a firm grasp on their oft-times very wordy dialogue. You know... LaBute's dialogue that never finishes a sentence... or a thought? You know... And McPherson and Sipos really do achieve completion of each other's sentences and thoughts. Very nice!
And a round of applause to the latest of John Iacovelli's always appropriate and versatile set designs. In a Dark Dark House's astro turf set with efficient touches, easily transforms from rehab lawns to mini-golf course to Drew's mansion's spacious manicured grounds.
Lastly, atypical of a LaBute piece, the ending's satisfyingly, not completely unhappy. This production of In a Dark Dark House is theatre at its best!