The Open House
In this play, a man and wife are joined by their adult son and daughter and the man’s live-in brother to celebrate the couple’s wedding anniversary. No one seems to be in a celebratory mood though. The father, who is wheelchair bound from a recent stroke, spends most of his time making snippy little disparaging remarks to the other family members.
What I liked most about this play was how well it blended humor with pathos. The father’s deadpan put downs are generally pretty funny. At one point, he interrupts his wife by saying, “Do you really have to say things?” At another point his brother asks rhetorically, “Where would I be if I hadn’t learned Latin?” “Working” is the father’s curt reply. This type of dialogue goes on for quite some time at the beginning of the play. At the same time I was laughing at his rude comments I became increasingly aware of how they were affecting his family. His wife bravely attempted to make pleasant conversation while his brother, son and daughter mostly sat in browbeaten silence. At one very poignant moment, the daughter cries out in desperation for some sympathy for a problem she was having. She gets nothing from her father and well intentioned but insufficient support from her mother. I also got the sense that the father was masking his own pain with his rude behaviour.
This is one of those rare plays that simultaneously makes you want to laugh and cry. It has an excellent script, great direction, and terrific performances from a top notch cast. It is by far the best show I’ve seen so far at this year’s Fringe.
Venue 6 — Tom Hendry Warehouse
Warnings: Mild language