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Review: Metcalf and Goldblum Caustically Clash In DOMESTICATED


Some researchers will tell you that while animals in the wild tend to copulate selectively for the sole purpose of reproducing, those who are domesticated are more likely to have sex for fun and with multiple partners.

So when the husband who is caught cheating in Bruce Norris' darkly satirical Domesticated claims that his wife is trying to prevent him from behaving as nature has programmed him to behave, he may have science on his side. Though it's doubtful he'll have much of the audience on his side.

When we first meet Judy and Bill (an electrically combatant Laurie Metcalf and a desperate, passive aggressive Jeff Goldblum, both excellent), they are in the midst of a scenario we've seen all too frequently in American politics; a high-ranking public official - handsome, masculine and perhaps even a champion of women's issues - humbly announces he is resigning from his office because of a recent sex-related scandal. His well-groomed and dignified wife stands close behind him in silent support. But this time, before he finishes the prepared text, he stumbles a bit through an improvised expression of what he really thinks.

These are the last words we'll be hearing from Bill for quite some time, as Judy takes charge in protecting their daughters - the angry, self-centered Casey (Emily Meade) and the quiet, studious Cassidy (Misha Seo) - and dealing with the legal ramifications and the monetary hardship they face because her husband's last meeting with a prostitute ended with a shocking tragedy.

Bill quietly whimpers through family meals and meetings with his lawyer (a former flame) for the bulk of the first act, but, with nothing left to lose (an attempt to return to his former career as a gynecologist is met with the expected results), explodes at what he feels to be the hypocritical nature of a society that counters male privilege with a world where everything a man does is wrong.

Mirroring her parents' saga is a slide presentation by Cassidy, documenting the mating rituals of various species. First we learn about animals whose sexual habits are similar to those of humans, but by the end we're hearing about dominant females that have no use for their males outside of procreation.

Director Anna D. Shapiro's crackling production punches up Norris' caustic confrontations with a cold, clinical atmosphere as if we're truly watching a scientific study. The multiple scenes glide into each other seamlessly.

As with Clybourne Park and The Pain And The Itch, Norris explores discomforting territory and lets us laugh at it. And then leaves us wondering what's so funny.

Photos of Jeff Goldblum and Laurie Metcalf by Joan Marcus.

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