There’s something more than your average stale production being served at Interrobang Theatre Company. Heavy Hors D’oeuvres is a night of three short plays all centered on the holidays and the family drama that tends to unfold. Delicately bouncing back and forth between unpredictably hilarious and downright heart wrenching moments, Heavy Hors D’oeuvres delivers a night of quality theatre that’ll leave you wanting more.
The first piece of the evening, “The Ides of May”, written by Laura Fuentes, and directed by Corey Hennessey, concerns a young straight couple (Beth and Teddy) and their debate whether or not to have children. Beth is reluctant and Teddy verges on inappropriately pushing her to change her mind. This all comes to a head when a surprise visitor shows up at the door on Mother’s Day. A traditional laugh track is utilized for the first half of the show, summoning feelings of classic sitcoms such as I Love Lucy or Bewitched – a cue to the supposed marital bliss of the happy couple despite obvious issues under the surface. This creates a beautiful moment when all the noise comes to an abrupt halt and we’re left with silence at the arrival of an uninvited guest. Although there are strong moments such as this throughout, the pacing is consistently slightly off. In the beginning of the piece, I needed a bit more of a traditional sitcom pattern to match the aesthetic evoked with the sound design of a canned laugh track.
Director Corey Hennessey does a fantastic job at choreographing the staging, although could have pushed his actors just slightly more into their characters. Ramon Burris as Teddy plays the loveable, goofball husband gallantly, although at times seems disconnected from the stakes of the situation. Caitlin Rife as Beth crafts a dynamic, sincere human at a crossroads, and had there been just a bit more focus on the timing and pace for most of her comedic moments, it would have fleshed out the performance and made it near perfect. Maranda Kosten, without giving too much away, gives a hauntingly real portrayal of a mother in crisis.
The second piece, “Three”, written by Natalie Piegari, was easily the most emotional of the night, concerning a family of three grieving the recent loss of their fourth member, Chloe. Guided by the spirit of Chloe, the remaining family is forced to reconcile their unresolved feelings with the situation. Cara Elaine Hinh directs this piece spectacularly, guiding her cast to fully explore the complexities of grief. I’m getting chills thinking of this piece while writing, it was so impactful. I can’t overstate how impressed I was with Caitlin Rife in this play. As the recently deceased daughter of the family she speaks to the audience and the family from the world of the dead – no one can hear her except us. Caitlin places this character right on the line between a confident, assured, independent spirit and a scared young adult who doesn’t know what’s going to happen next in this new world. The dynamics she achieves here are stunning to behold. Maranda Kosten, as the mother, wears her pain on her sleeve so fiercely it’s hard to look away at times. Ramon Burris expertly plays the father by allowing the experience of losing a daughter to weigh on every inch of his body. Sean McComas plays the younger brother, Liam, with a passion that was great to watch. I do wish though that he had explored the different emotions that come attached with the grieving process of the play – there were moments where his performance crossed into the “one-note” zone.
The last piece, “Well”, by Rich Espey, was the most interesting and entertaining of the three. New couple Lucas and Shanna are spending the Holiday at Lucas’ family home where Shanna is exposed to their generations old tradition centered around a well that contains the spirits of past ancestors. Director Katie Hileman leads her cast to comedic excellence with this piece. This play could very easily go off the deep end into total absurdity, but Katie keeps the histrionics grounded with strong character work. Most impressive of this work was Sean McCormas as “Grampus”. Completely transforming himself from what we saw previously, he becomes a wizened elderly man who manically dances his way around the stage in preparation for his family’s unusual festivities. This show is a great ending to a night of wonderful and thought-provoking pieces. It’s a more absurd comedy with a thoroughly Martin McDonagh ending, and a great punctuation to the evening.
Overall, Interrobang is presenting a beautifully crafted evening where every piece lands nicely. The stories are all told with honesty and nerve that is wonderful to watch. Running at just about an hour, it’s a great appetizer for the rest of your evening out. (B)
Heavy Hor D’oeuvres is playing at Interrobang Theater Company (at The Strand- 5426 Harford Rd) through Sunday December 17th.