Tradition has followed the linear format – beginning, middle, and end – for a couple of hundred years. Audiences long ago embraced this format. It’s familiar, comfortable and satisfying.
|Richard Riehle, Gary Wilmes, Frank Boyd |
and Brian Slaten. Photo by Craig Schwartz
As Ms. Lee explained to a group of theatre-goers prior to the performance, she wanted to shake up and force the audience out of its comfort zone with this play. During the previews of “Straight White Men”, a comedy with deceptive dramatic undertones, audience feedback revealed that audiences had a difficult time understanding what the play was about even though they had just witnessed it.
Ms. Lee’s story is set in the Midwest at Christmas and revolves around retired, loving, and non-judgmental father Ed (Richard Riehle) and his three 30-something adult sons. Matt (Brian Slaten) is an introspective, PhD dropout who has been forced to move back and live with his father. Jake (Gary Wilmes) is the middle son and a successful banker, now divorced. Drew (Frank Boyd) is the youngest son and an earnest writer/academic professor who has gone through therapy and is now a champion of its precepts. There is nothing more zealous than a convert to anything, and Drew is determined to help Matt overcome whatever it is that’s troubling him regardless of whether he wants the help or not. He doesn’t.
|Gary Wilmes, Frank Boyd and |
Brian Slaten. Photo by Craig Schwartz
Plays may be ‘the thing’, however, it’s the players that bring order and clarity to the psychodrama unfolding on stage. As an ensemble piece, we are treated to four finely judged and nuanced performances by four talented actors, making it an exhilarating display of individual brilliance within a team format.
In the third act, the story takes a more somber and highly emotional turn when Matt and Ed have a powerful and poignant scene between father and son that is so simple and yet so heart-wrenching, one feels this must be the cathartic moment the audience has been waiting for. But wait… (no spoiler alert here) there’s more great stuff to come.
|Richard Riele and Matt Slaten. Photo by Craig Schwartz|
In the technical department, director Lee heads the creative team of scenic designer David Evans Morris, lighting designer Christopher Kuhl, costume designer Enver Chakartash, and sound design by Chris Giarmo and Jaime McElhinney.
The intriguing play is performed without an intermission.
“Straight White Men” performs at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, and runs through December 20, 2015.