BWW Review: DEATH TAX at Hyde Park Theatre
Deftly directed by Ken Webster, Playwright Lucas Hnath (A Doll's House, Part 2, The Christians), tackles some very uncomfortable topics in DEATH TAX: the fear of death, dysfunctional relationships, money and its ever-present cousin, greed, assumptions, misunderstandings, grudges... you know, the usual family fare. Fortunately, it's presented as a dark comedy with enough twists to keep us guessing what will happen next.
Maxine is convinced she's dying and that her daughter is eager to inherit. Maxine bribes her nurse, Tina to help her stay alive until the new year when a new inheritance tax will eat up a sizable chunk of the estate. A rival nurse reports the scheme to Tina's supervisor Todd, and the game is on.
Lana Dieterich is wonderful as Maxine - judgmental, demanding, self-righteous, and a master manipulator. Dieterich is a fascinating artist, and a natural fit for this role.
Web Jerome's Tina has experienced a lifetime of manipulators and is pretty good at the game herself. Jerome's seamless acting technique allows her to perfectly capture Tina's innate ability to sense the motives of others and assess what she believes they need from her.
Chase Brewer appears to relish his role as Tina's supervisor and wannabe paramour, Todd. Brewer's comic timing is spot-on and he and Jerome both get to shine again as other characters later in the play.
Not to be outdone, Sarah Chong Harmer is wonderful as Maxine's unnamed daughter. This is a demanding role and Harmer hits all the peaks and valleys with aplomb.
One aspect of this play that I enjoyed the most is that it conveys a great deal of information by what isn't said by the characters, by what they don't reveal. It is up to the audience to fill in the missing information, or not. I do not mean to imply that the story is incomplete - it certainly is, what I mean is that what is true or false depends on your own point of view. Whatever the whole story may or may not be, one thing is clear - each character is convinced that their point of view is correct.
DEATH TAX plays through July 27th, and tickets are available at: www.hydeparktheatre.org/site/ , 511 W 43rd St, Austin, TX 78751 (512) 479-7529