Review: It's Easy to See Your Own Crazy Family in IN-LAWS, OUTLAWS AND OTHER PEOPLE (That Should Be Shot)
No doubt, each of us has those out-of-kilter family members everyone makes fun of for their quirks and strange behaviors when the family gets together for the holidays. After all, don't we all laugh at movies, TV shows and plays designed to make fun of those types of people to make us realize we are not alone in our trying times with our own families? I am even more sure that is why soap operas are so popular since they are about families even more in turmoil than our own.
Such is the case in Steve Franco's timely holiday comedy IN-LAWS, OUTLAWS AND OTHER PEOPLE (that Should Be Shot), being presented by Theatre Palisades and brilliantly directed by Ria Parody Erlich so that each bad habit of the strange Douglas family is brought to life thoroughly by her 15 talented actors each and every moment they are onstage, whether speaking or not. Running through December 10, this dysFUNctional family holiday comedy will leave you quite merry with laughter!
The action commences at 6pm with the Douglas family busily preparing to be invaded by their quirky relatives for their annual Christmas Eve dinner in a modest, upper middle-class home in the snowy Fiske Terrance area of Brooklyn. But unfortunately, the family Matriarch Janet (Terri Parks) is stuck in a Vermont airport during the same snowstorm and unable to get home in time to enjoy the meal with everyone. This leaves the last minute organizing up to her often-clueless husband (Jonathan Fahn) and his smart-mouthed, college student daughter Beth, portrayed to the hilt by Tessa Marts as the person who actually speaks the hysterical truth about unfolding situations and behaviors with enough well-timed witticisms to deliver consistent chuckles.
First to arrive is their busybody neighbor, Mrs. Draper (Darcy Silveira) who walks in wearing a fur jacket over a pajama top slit up the side, obviously more interested in garnering sexual attention from any man in her presence than anything else, saying she is there to "borrow a cup of sugar" (although I can't really see her fussing in the kitchen at all). And when her advances are rebuffed, she reminds Dad that he needs to keep up his responsibility to the neighborhood and turn on his outdoor holiday lights.
After she finally leaves, next to arrive is one of the crackpot couples of the family, Janet's sister Bunny (Laura Goldstein, dressed in a Christmas sweater featuring what else - a big-eared white rabbit) and her redneck, down-home husband Bud (Andrew Margolin) who lazes around and talks about bowling until called to the dinner table where he proceeds to take and eat enough food for 3 people, and their shy and somewhat embarrassed-by-their-presence daughter Tracy (Sierra Laurin Parsons who makes rolling her eyes some of her best comebacks).
But Aunt Rose (Sue Hardie) and Uncle Leo (Mitch Feinstein) are the real scene-stealing couple of the show, she with her forgetfulness and inability to stop talking and he with his need to constantly bicker with his wife and re-tell the same stories over and over again, that will no doubt remind you of every long-married quirky couple in your own family. Their banter kept the audience in stitches throughout the show.
When the doorbell rings next, two bumbling crooks, Tony (Eric Pierce) and Vinny (Cruz Flores), use a ruse to gain entrance into the home. These two are a riot as they attempt to gain control of the uncontrollable family members, with Tony armed with a pistol to hold the hardly-frightened family members in their place and Vinny a clueless mess just trying to help his unemployed and down-on-his-luck friend make the holidays brighter for his kids. But they soon find themselves in charge of an ever-growing list of zany family members, making you wonder who is holding whom hostage?
Things get even ore interesting when the Wakowski neighbors begin to arrive. First is the blue-haired goth Paul, played by Jeff DeWitt with flash and bravado as well as the ability to sit down in a yoga pose in attempt to tune out the ridiculousness around him. After all, all he wanted to do was drop off a present for the family to go under their tree and give some to his "girlfriend" Beth, a fact that sets family members into a frenzy of disbelief and Beth into altering her appearance so her real attractiveness shines through. I don't want to spoil what his arrival sets off in the group, but I guarantee you will roar with laughter at their comments and his comebacks, not to mention how Tony and Vinny are invited to sit down with family members at the table to at least enjoy a now somewhat-frantic family dinner.
When Paul's sister Emily (Hayley Dixon) arrives to check on what is taking him so long to get back home, followed by their good-natured, no-nonsense grandmother Mrs. Wakowski (Lois Bostwick), the stage is set for 15 of the most outrageous characters to ever gather on a stage. Director Erlich works wonders with all of them, making sure each one conveys their character at all times. Just take a look around each scene to witness what is really going on in the minds of each of them, especially after Tony and Vinny split the group into the men in one room and the women in the other, in their feeble attempt to dominate the situation.
Of course, this is a comedy so everything must work out at the end. After Janet finally arrives home and attempts to take charge, which you know will never happen, the doorbell announces the arrival of Officer Henley (Prince Johnson) who informs the family to look out for two robbers last seen approaching their neighborhood. Dad steps up to identify his "cousins" Wentworth and Vincent from out-of-town, causing Tony and Vinny to do their best to change their appearances, including a purposely feeble British accent put on by Pierce as Tony. While the officer is immediately suspicious, Dad's logic manages to save the two men from jail and gets the stolen money returned to the cop. Thus the lesson opening your heart and giving an unexpected gift to someone in need during the holidays shines through at the end.
As always, Sherman Wayne has designed and lit (with co-designer Franz Klinkenberg) a lovely, totally workable set enhanced by scenic artist Joanne Reich, with Susan Stangl's sound design ringing in the holidays in style, and costume designer June Lissandrello's Christmas-themed sweaters highlighting the gaudiness and lack of tact in this ultimately caring family.
Performances of IN-LAWS, OUTLAWS AND OTHER PEOPLE (that Should Be Shot) by Steve Franco, directed by Ria Parody Erlich, and produced by Sylvia Grieb and Pat Perkins, continue through December 10, 2017 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m., at Theatre Palisades Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon (just south of Sunset Blvd.) in Pacific Palisades. Free on-site parking. General admission tickets are Adults $20, Seniors & Students $18, and may be purchased by calling the box office at (310) 454-1970 or online at
Photo credit: Joy Daunis