ARTS & CULTURE
Review

'The House of Yes' accentuates the negative

Cult classic 'The House of Yes' gets a respectable revival at the Zephyr

Family dysfunction, that age-old staple of the dramatic canon, permeates the walking wounded that populate “The House of Yes” in a respectable, albeit still-gelling 25th anniversary revival at the Zephyr.

From its 1990 premiere at San Francisco’s Magic Theatre onward, playwright Wendy MacLeod’s jet-black comic study of the affluent, Kennedy-obsessed Pascals of McLean, Va., has given audiences plenty to laugh and/or squirm at, including a cult film version with Parker Posey and Tori Spelling.

We open with off-kilter Jackie-O (the valiant Kate Maher), just out of the hospital and frenetically awaiting the Thanksgiving arrival of Marty (Colin McGurk, going from understated to ferocious), the fraternal twin with whom she has a profoundly inappropriate history.

Younger brother Anthony (sensitive Nicholas McDonald) worries over Marty’s return and its affect on Jackie-O, and not just because Mrs. Pascal (Eileen T’Kaye), the brood’s asp-tongued mother, is anything but nurturing.

And as a hurricane allegorically hits the area, Marty arrives, working-class fiancée Lesly (Jeanne Syquia) in tow, and all bets are off, leading to a Gothic final rug pull.

Lee Sankowich directs this warped mélange of incest, alcoholism, mental illness, homicide and Nov. 22, 1963, with a steady hand, moving his players around designer Adam Haas Hunter’s aptly austere set like Stratego pieces on phenobarbital.

The tech is resourceful, particularly Norman Kern’s sound, although Rebecca Raines’ light plot is still refining the power-outage effects and costumer Wendell C. Carmichael misses the last details on the engaged couple's entrance garb and Jackie-O's iconic pink suit.

These are minor quibbles. More problematic is that MacLeod, who has a knack for razor-edged zingers, stacks the archetypal deck toward her story’s toxic outcome. Sankowich’s measured naturalism and the cast's talent often counters this, but sometimes the textual contrivances are exposed and interrupt the intended savage tone.

Still, it’s generally an intelligent, honorable reading of a tricky, specifically quirky property. Fans of this “Suburban Jacobean Play" (the telling subtitle) will hardly say no to “Yes."

“The House of Yes,” Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends June 14. $25. (323) 960-5563 or www.zephyrtheatre.com. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.

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