As the house lights darken, the sound of cicadas fill the theater and set the mood for the drama that lies ahead. The lights soften to reveal the inside of a dilapidated former plantation in Arkansas. The old once grand home is great disrepair and filled with years of a hoarders collection of both artifacts and secrets.
Much like the mysterious cicada insect that lives underground only to return every 13 to 17 years and sing its mating song, the adult Lafayette family which has been distant from each other decides to reunite at the plantation after the death of their father. The purpose is to liquidate the estate and the decaying plantation house. Of the three adult children, each has a different reason for returning. Toni, (Betsy Aidem) the oldest is the executor and is there with her son Rhys (Nick Selting) to oversee the sale of the contents of the home and the plantation itself. However, she cannot seem to get a grasp on letting her father go, and the sale she charged with arranging is disorganized. Her brother Bo (David Aaron Baker), has come in from New York with his family so he can recoup his financial outlay of taking care of his father, and for his wife Rachel (Diane Davis) and kids (Allison Winn and Christian Camporin) to learn something about the reclusive father whom they have never known.
Into the mix comes the long lost brother Franz (Shawn Fagan), the youngest sibling and the misfit of the family who has been out of touch from the family for 10 years. With him is his earthy and soulful young girlfriend, River (Anna Crivelli). Franz (formerly Frank) was a burden to his family for years and then dropped out of sight. Franz has returned not to seek money or his share of the estate, but to reunite with his siblings and make peace with his family, His visit is to cleanse himself from the person he was and to confront his troubled past growing up in the plantation. With the assistance of River, he has reinvented himself and the misfit now morally rises above his siblings.
Old houses as well as families have deep secrets that perhaps are best kept that way. But by accident a horrible secret about their father emerges from the hoard of items found in the house. Each sibling must grasp with this discovery. There is denial, intrigue and accusations as we learn about each member and their relationship with their father. The remaining family members struggle not only with the discovery of this secret, but must deal with the decay of their family ties which parallels the decay of the plantation itself. I will not disclose the secret as that if for you to discover.
Appropriate is a brilliantly written play by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. It is complex, and thought provoking. I found myself rewinding the scenes of the play in my mind long after I left the theater. Direction by David Kennedy is wonderful as the audience is immediately drawn into the action and held there for the duration. The set design is wonderful and captures the decay of the plantation. Special note should go the effects, lighting and sound which are all instrumental to the performance.
Notable acting performances include Betsy Aidem as Toni who commands the stage as her character swings from sadness to remorse to rage during the play. Shawn Fagan as Franz gives an illuminating performance of a character who embodies redemption. It is perhaps Anna Crivelli as River whose rational zen like character brings both levity and calm which is the most memorable performance.
This is a must see drama and one of the finest I have seen in some time.
The show runs through September 2 2017
Westport Country Playhouse
25 Powers Court Westport Ct
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