BWW Reviews: The Colony Theatre Manages a Good Effort at FAMILY PLANNING
Family Planning/by Michelle Kholos Brooks/ directed by Cameron Watson/Colony Theatre/ thru August 10, 2014
Strong cast debuts The Colony Theatre's world premiere of Michelle Kholos Brooks' Family Planning. Great to see TV veterans (of 1980's hit dramas) Bruce Weitz (Hill Street Blues) and Christina Pickles (St. Elsewhere) really enjoy themselves treading the stages of the Colony Theatre. Weitz brings so much joy and wonderment to his New Age-y Larry, father of Sidney and ex of Diane. Recovering from a recent heart attack, Larry has moved into his old home, since relinquished to Sidney and her husband Michael. Diane suddenly shows up at their front door (accompanied by three large pieces of luggage) for a "short visit" and actually expects to sleep in the master bedroom she hasn't used in 20 years. Pickles, as Diane, easily masters the pointed digs, sharp quips and guilt-pointing; dueling even-matched, barb-for-barb with Weitz.
Dee Ann Newkirk (Sidney) and Jack Sundmacher (Michael) evoke as much sympathy as possible for the intruded-upon young couple having to deal with, and now possibly, live with, Sidney's combative, high-maintenance parents.
Cameron Watson directs the first entertaining half at a firm and fast pace keeping the verbal skirmishes at rapid-fire speeds. Dysfunctional to the max! And, then the family secrets start to reveal themselves, one by one, like peeling layers of an onion. Best exchange of the play-after Sidney successfully comforts Diane; mother says to daughter, "Sometimes I wish you were my mother!" After a beat, daughter replies to mother, "Sometimes I wish you were my mother!" Brilliant! This brief conversation encapsulates what this play's about. Family non-communication and misunderstandings festering throughout formative to adult years. Family Planning raises a plethora of questions: How does one see the funny side to the dead seriousness of having to take care of one's aging parents? Comedy or drama? When do you stop living your own life to live your parent's? Sitcom or theater? How do you all live under the same roof without killing each other?
The climatic confession scene in which Larry and Diane finally have some time alone features some fine dramatics but the seriousness seem to bog down the pacing. Plus the actual throwing of many objects by both Weitz and Pickles does not exhibit the same joy or expression release that both actors demonstrated in previous scenes. Reminds me of the destructive scene in Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? This pivotal scene involved the husband and wife after discovering the details of the husband's affair. Objects were smashed and trashed Many objects. Each object chosen to destruct were items the other valued, a favorite painting, an anniversary vase. The scene emotionally devastated the couple... and the audience.
The objects Larry and Diane throw around all seem to be everyday pieces belonging to Sidney and Michael. Why? They don't hate either of them. Larry had brought out an old box hidden in the closet containing random keepsakes from their past marriage. Tossing any and all of those items would make much more sense.
Topnotch production elements as expected in Colony Theatre productions. Gorgeous, detailed country house living room set by David Potts, complemented by Orlando de la Paz' sunset cyclorama over the outside frame of the house and Jared A. Sayeg's mood-inducing lighting designs.
Family Planning's never what you planned, unless you're in Kholos Brooks' version with a happy ending at the 90-minute mark.