Straight White Men underwhelms at Marin Theatre

(L- R) J Jha as Person in Charge 1, Seann Gallagher as Jake, Ryan Tasker as Drew, Christian Haines, James Carpenter as Ed, Ryan Tasker as Matt, Arianna Evens as Person in Charge 2.

Straight White Men: Comedy by Young Jean Lee. Directed by Morgan Gould. Marin Theatre Company (MTC), 397 Mill Avenue, Mill Valley, CA, 415-388-5208 or www.marintheatre.org.

June 14-July8, 2018

Straight White Men underwhelms at Marin Theatre. Rating: ★★★☆☆

When you enter the auditorium of the Marin Theatre your ears are bombarded by the cacophony of Rap music blaring from speakers while two members of the cast in garish outfits prowl the front of the stage and aisles. One listed as Person in Charge 1 (J Jha) dressed in flimsy female attire does most of the gyrating while the other is Person in Charge 2 with flaming red hair  with black headset suggesting she is a member of the technical crew. It is an inauspicious beginning.

The much heralded author Young Jean Lee is known for her eclectic playwriting and the critics have sung her praises. These “Persons in Charge” “are definitely not straight white men” but they are in charge of the action of the four white men inhabiting Luciana Stecconi’s handsome living room set. The cleverness of this construct only partly works because it detracts from the primary critical/satirical look at the flaws of white men privileges. The superb acting of those playing the straight white men makes this play worth seeing.

They are patriarch Ed (James Carpenter) and his three sons. Matt(Ryan Tasker) is apparently the most brilliant Harvard Graduate who has lost his potential to be great. He has a temporary job, lives with his father doing the cleaning and cooking while he tries to pay up his student loan debt. Drew (Christian Haines) is a successful novelist with a new book about to be published. Divorced Jake (Seann Gallagher) is a powerful charismatic banker with his entire workforce being white.

They have gathered to spend Christmas at the family home and first scenes of the play establish the pecking order that brothers do while drinking, eating Chinese food and rough housing. Author Lee has even invented a monopoly type game that they play called “Privilege” where you earn $200 every time you pass go. When Matt breaks into tears for no apparent reason there is a shift in the tenure of the play. The other three try to determine Matt’s problem of apparently “trying to make the world a better place by sabotaging himself”.

There are some terrific scenes as each try to solve Matt’s problem that remains to the end of the play ending on a dramatic final decision by Ed leaving Matt to silently face Person in Charge 1 who has been on the stage almost the entire performance.

Running time is 85 minutes without intermission.

FEATURING: James Carpenter: ED; Christian Haines: DREW; Ryan Tasker: MATT; Seann Gallagher: JAKE; J Jha: Person in Charge 1; Arianna Evans:Person in Charge 2.

CREATIVE TEAM: Director, Morgan Gould;Scenic Designer,Luciana Stecconi;  Lighting Designer, Heather Basarab; Assistant Lighting Designer, Danny Osburn; Costume Designer, Fumiko Bielefeldt; Sound Designer, Sara Huddleston; Properties Artisans, Liam Rudisill, Rachel Hurado; Stage Manager, Jessica R. Aguilar; Rehearsal Production Assistant, Brigid Ridge; Assistant Director,Giselle Boustani-Fontenele.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.

(L- R) J Jha as Person in Charge 1, Seann Gallagher as Jake, Ryan Tasker as Drew, Christian Haines, James Carpenter as Ed, Ryan Tasker as Matt, Arianna Evens as Person in Charge 2.