BWW Review: Compelling and Controversial: APPROPRIATE at Cadence Theatre Delivers

BWW Review: Compelling and Controversial: APPROPRIATE at Cadence Theatre Delivers
Photo by Jason Collins Photography

"I am just saying he was a slave to his upbringing just like everyone else and, like everyone else, he had his issues." - Rachael Kramer-Lafayette, APPROPRIATE

Cadence Theatre's latest offering is Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' Obie Award-winning play APPROPRIATE-a wildly subversive and disturbing piece of theatre that is anything but appropriate. Given the perfectly cluttered stage, patrons walking into the theatre may feel they are about to bear witness to a live episode of "Hoarders," but what unfolds over the next two-and-a-half hours is far more chaotic.

After the passing of its patriarch, Ray, the Lafayette family is forced to sell the plantation home their father hoped to turn into a bed and breakfast. As they prepare for the estate sale and auction, his children and grandchildren discover dark, shocking secrets and offensive memorabilia that threaten to rip apart the already divisive and emotionally-scarred family.

Rich Mason's finely crafted and detailed plantation set is a living, breathing thing with authentic creaks and cracking wallpaper. Emily Hake's scenic painting and Daniel Burgess' set dressing add to the legitimacy of Mason's superb set design. Sarah Grady's costumes are casual and modern. Michael Jarett's lighting and Jesse Senechal's sound design are complementary and make for some moments that are equal parts unnerving and natural. Josh Chenard's outstanding fight choreography results in one of the unruliest family fracases on a stage.

Under the skillful hands of Anna Senechal Johnson, the ensemble mostly delivers in what is, at once amusing and another upsetting, one of the most engaging and reflective pieces of contemporary theatre.

BWW Review: Compelling and Controversial: APPROPRIATE at Cadence Theatre Delivers
Photo by Jason Collins Photography

Happy Mahaney is perfectly cast as Frank, the youngest and most alienated of Ray's children. From the time he climbs through an upper-floor window, uninvited, Mahaney is incredibly dynamic and consistent. Feeding off his energy is Kathryn Humphries, as River, who is so spacey she might actually conjure up spirits. Tyler Stevens is genuine and funny as the awkward and angsty Rhys.

Though it takes a little time to settle in, Joe Pabst gives a solid performance as the deceptively calm Bo-the most likeable of the bunch. Jill Bari Steinberg is incredibly convincing as his wife, Rachael, a personal victim of Ray's anti-Semitism.

BWW Review: Compelling and Controversial: APPROPRIATE at Cadence Theatre Delivers
Photo by Jason Collins Photography

Susan Sanford gives a well-shaded performance as the bitter and abrasive divorcee,' Toni, and peppers the production with razor-sharp attacks and comedic timing-she's both dark and delightful.

Great theatre stays with you long after the final curtain, and the weight of APPROPRIATE, and its themes of systemic racism, echoes days later. APPROPRIATE includes mature themes and strong language and is not recommended for children. This must-see production runs through May 20 at Theatre Gym.

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