Ambitious House of Yes a winner at Custom Made Theatre

(l-r) Casey Robbins as Marty, Shelley Lynn Johnson as Mrs. Pascal, Caitlin Evenson as Jackie-O, Juliana Lustenader as Lesly In Custom Made’s “The House of Yes”.

(l-r) Casey Robbins as Marty, Shelley Lynn Johnson as Mrs. Pascal, Caitlin Evenson as Jackie-O, Juliana Lustenader as Lesly In Custom Made’s “The House of Yes”.

The House of Yes: Drama by Wendy MacCleod. Directed by Stuart Bousel. Custom Made Theatre 533 Sutter St. (at Powell), San Francisco, CA., (415) 798-2682 or www.custommade.org.  March 30 – April 29, 2017

Ambitious House of Yes a winner at Custom Made Theatre   Rating: ★★★★☆

It was 27 years ago that Wendy Macleod’s The House of Yes subtitled “A Suburban Jacobean Play” premiered at the innovative Magic Theater and had an extended run. Custom Made Theater is equally innovative and their choice of this play is an ambitious undertaking fitting in with their creative mission. There are multiple reasons to venture to their intimate theater with the caveat “this play isn’t for everyone.”

The cast is first rate and all five actors earn accolades. Along with the fine acting is commendable directing with Stuart Bousel’s pacing occasional hindered by the tight quarters of a first-rate almost two level set.. The sounds and lighting add great atmosphere. The multiple scenes at first seem fragmented but they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle creating an understandable whole but devastating picture.

The play has been described as an “acidic satire about class, sex, innocence, and mental illness.” It is all of these initially eliciting some raucous laughter that melds into shocking moments with an individual line earning an understanding laugh. A classic example is “A mother doesn’t spy. A mother pays attention” when she has observed her youngest son having sex with his older brother’s fiancée. The title is reference to children being reared in an atmosphere (house) where “yes” describes over indulgence.

The setting is “MacLean, Virginia, a wealthy suburb of Washington, D.C. around the corner from the Kennedys (Yes those Kennedys, JFK and Jackie).  The time is Thanksgiving, during a hurricane 20 years after JFK’s assignation. The turmoil of the hurricane mirrors the turmoil that is about to unfold in a compact 90 minute play without intermission.

It begins with Mrs. Pascal (Shelley Lynn Johnson) ineffectually attempting to rein in her hyperactive daughter Jackie-O (Caitlin Evenson ) who has recently returned from a sanatorium for the insane. We later learn that Jackie-O is the nickname she was given years ago after arriving at a costume ball dressed in a replica of the famous blood stained pink dress and box hat Jackie Kennedy wore when JFK was assassinated. On that fateful day Mr. Pascal mysteriously disappeared.

When Mrs. Pascal learns that Marty (Casey Robbins) Jackie-O’s fraternal twin is coming for a visit with his fiancée, she orders her 23 year old son Anthony (Elliot Lieberman) to hide the knives.  When Marty arrives with his working class fiancée Lesly (Juliana Lustenader) they are unwelcomed guests. To appropriately use a cliché, all of MacLeod’s ducks are in a row ready to be shot down.

Marty resumes his incestuous relationship with his twin sister. Virginal Anthony follows his sister’s advice to seduce Lesly. Marty and Jackie-O reenact the JFK shooting . . . twice. Lesly falls victim to the madness and we finally learn what has happened to the father.  Yes the hurricane persists, lights go out and one might question the script with “For what purpose?”

Shelley Lynn Johnson’s underplaying the role of mother is a delicious contrast to the modulated insanity of Jackie- O as projected by Caitlin Evenson.  Elliot Lieberman gives verisimilitude to the naiveté of Anthony morphing into aggression as he seduces Lucy.  Juliana Lustenader  hits the right notes as the non-sophisticated Lucy later being driven to irrationality. Casey Robbins’ Marty does not quite display the violence of his sexual urges for his twin sister but he gives stature to role as the lightening rod within the family.

CAST: Caitlin Evenson  (Jackie-O); Shelley Lynn Johnson (Mrs. Pascal); Elliot Lieberman, (Anthony); Juliana Lustenader, (Lesly); Casey Robbins. (Marty).

CREATIVE STAFF: Director – Stuart Bousel; Stage Manager- Cat Knight; Zoe Rosenfeld – Scenic Design; Lighting Design -Sophia Craven,; Sound Design – Ryan Lee Short; Props Design – Seth Boeckman; Costume Design- Kathleen Qiu; Master Carpenter – Anthony Aranda; Production Manager – Beth Hall

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.

(l-r) Casey Robbins as Marty, Shelley Lynn Johnson as Mrs. Pascal, Caitlin Evenson as Jackie-O, Juliana Lustenader as Lesly In Custom Made’s “The House of Yes”.