BWW Reviews: PARASITE DRAG Seethes with Family Drama

The Waterbury Festival Playhouse offers up something dark this season: Mark Roberts' PARASITE DRAG. ("Parasite drag" is an aeronautical term that refers to the resistance caused by parts of an aircraft that don't contribute to lift.) This psychological drama tells the story of a family ripped apart by a terrible secret - a secret that remains unknown to the audience until close to the play's end.

The storyline follows two estranged brothers who are brought together by their addict sister's impending death from what we assume to be AIDS complications. The angry, uncouth Ronnie (David Dilego), appears at the rural Illinois home of his fanatical Christian brother Gene (Adam Cunningham). With Ronnie is his new wife Susie (Sarah Mell), a tough gal with a kind heart and an unsettling level of honesty. Gene and his miserably unhappy wife Joellen (Ginger Pierce) allow the pair to stay in their home.

Each scene peels away another layer of dysfunctional family dynamics, riveting often out of sheer shock factor. Comfort zones are abandoned as the four characters reveal bits of family history and begin to crumble. The playwright has thrown every conceivable issue in their paths - drugs, sex, death, disease, suicide, infidelity, rape, and questions of faith. At times, it seems that this family has experienced an improbable number of misfortunes. An unexpected bit of information near the end of the play, however, reveals that these misfortunes are merely the ripple effects of a devastating part of the siblings' childhood.

Fortunately, the tragic nature of this play is balanced with a healthy dose of comic relief. A long prayer before a dinner of Kentucky Fried Chicken is particularly well-played, as are several moments with Ronnie's reading glasses. The psychological depth of these characters is immense, and all four actors rise beautifully to the challenge under the direction of George Pierce. Rick Loya's set depicting the interior of a "normal" American home is the perfect backdrop for the story of this distinctly not normal family.

PARASITE DRAG plays at the Waterbury Festival Playhouse in Waterbury, VT through September 14, 2013. This play contains mature content and is for adult audiences.

Waterbury Festival Playhouse's season continues with Neil Simon's RUMORS, starting October 3, 2013. Visit or call 802-498-3755 for more information.

Photo: (L-R) Ginger Pierce, Sarah Mell, Adam Cunningham
Photo courtesy of Waterbury Festival Playhouse

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From This Author Erin McIntyre

Erin McIntyre is delighted to be writing about Vermont's rich performing arts scene. She spent a number of years in New York City singing, acting, (read more...)