By Christopher B. Latro; Directed by Anna Bamberger
Produced by Rosendorf One Productions
Off Broadway, New Play
Runs through 5.9.15
Theatre Row's Beckett Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street
by Shoshana Roberts on 4.10.15
James Feuer and Sabina Petra in The Happy Family. Photo by Francisco Lupini.
BOTTOM LINE: Struggling marriages test the limits between what is right and wrong. Does family equate to loyalty?
Are any families really truly happy? Couples go through ups and downs due to a myriad of causes. Some are self inflicted and others remain out of their control. The three couples exhibited in The Happy Family definitely do not fit into my definition of happy, even when there is a moment of calm before the storm. And in this plot, when it rains it pours.
William (Eric Gravez) and Cornelia (Kailey Prior) are the youngest of the couples. They fight like brother and sister and do not seem to have any romantic chemistry. So why are they married to one another? It has something to do with Cornelia's mother Margaret (Sabina Petra) and step-father Theodor (James Feuer), but it is still somewhat of a mystery. Even Cornelia finds it difficult to rationalize her decisions. In fact, she is even swayed by her family to participate in deceitful actions. The interactions between Margaret and Theodor are infused with emotions that change on a dime, so no wonder Cornelia is in a constant state of hecticness. Sabina Petra and James Feuer also double as the third couple, Elizabeth and Dennis, who are connected to everyone else in a convoluted manner. It is hard to keep track of those who do and do not have jobs as call girls and priceless paintings are discussed. Perhaps there was real liquor in the prop bottles, but the story arc is hard to follow.
It seems like writer Christopher P. Latro and director Anna Bamberger were at odds with each other by exhibiting the same piece of information in many different ways. For instance, one scene opens with Cornelia in an oversized men's button-down shirt talking to a scantily clad Elizabeth. After that the blocking and writing continues as if we didn't realize a threesome had just occurred. I am not so naive as to think there would be any other reason for Cornelia to be without pants. This reiteration of concepts continues with the quasi-Ponzi scheme to ensure that you know, without a doubt, that the art being consistently mentioned was taken by means of ill repute. So much of this show is predictable, but I did find myself invested in the last couple scenes. “Happy” isn't quite the right adjective to associate with this family or this production. Rather, I would say “strange” is a better descriptor of both. They (the family and the production) swing at bat with a lot of power, but continue to foul and strike out. I guess they do get a few players on base, but just can't seem to score any runs until the last inning.
(The Happy Family plays at Theatre Row's Beckett Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street, through May 9, 2015. Performances are Tuesdays at 7PM; Wednesdays through Fridays at 8PM; Saturdays at 2PM and 8PM; and Sundays at 3PM. Tickets are $60.75 and are available at telecharge.com or by calling 212.239.6200.)