Let’s Kill Grandma This Christmas
nytheatre.com review by Pamela Butler
November 30, 2012
The program states right off, this is a twisted comedy, by Brian Gianci, and it tells “the other f*#king Christmas Story” or another one anyway, and it does not disappoint. It is a feast, served raw and garnished with charred comic crisps. If you like your comedy farcical and black, you’ll enjoy this.
The setting is Grandma’s house, created here by Harry Feiner to look like a cozy country living room inside an Addam’s Family style house somewhere north of New York City. The paint is peeling, the walls are stained and the ghost of an absent art work is outlined in dark dust on one prominent wall. The occasion is Christmas and Grandma’s 80th birthday, both of the same date. To celebrate the occasion, Grandma’s granddaughters and their spouses are visiting and, as the play begins, we quickly find out the lay of the land.
Grandma has a fortune and the granddaughters are in line to get it. In Shakespearian fashion, the nicer of the two, Jen, gets the house; “a real fixer-upper” or “a real dump” according to her husband, Brett, depending on who he is talking to. The other granddaughter, Leigh, physically fit and aggressive as turned out by Katie Webber), has sucked up to Granny all these years and will inherit $2.2 million, to share with her mealy-mouthed, milquetoast husband Carl. James Wirt is actually a big, robust guy, but as Carl he manages to shrivel and whine like a punctured balloon.
Jen and Brett arrive first. Kevin O’Donnell as Brett has the brusque puffery of a carnie barker, extolling the virtues of the house, ever attempting to sell Jen (Brandi Nicole Wilson) out of her resigned and mildly depressive state. She’s the spirit imbibing breadwinner in this duo while he’s the aspiring novelist with creative thoughts for gaining a fortune. When Jen and Carl arrive and more drinks are poured, the banter is barbed and revealing as they restlessly await Granny.
Roxie Lucas, about-to-be-eighty Cathy, finally bursts through the front door, having walked miles from a visit to a doctor in town who proclaimed she has “the body and mind of a fifty year old!”. She is volcanic and vitriolic, immediately maligning the world, the state of the country and the family members in front of her. She likes her f*#king expletives and uses them liberally.
One more character soon enters the action, having been napping in a back room, and that is Ray, Brett’s Afghan war ravaged brother. Adam Mucci is so charming and likeable it’s easy to forget the horror that put him in a wheelchair with a plate in his head. Every time he’s on stage he lights up the dark doings he’s unaware are happening around him.
As the title of the play bluntly suggests, there are plans afoot to hurry Granny to her physical cliff and send her over. To say more about the events from here on would give too much away but the action of the evening moves briskly and with great timing and effect, thanks to good acting and the sharp directing of John Dapolito. The jokes and pokes in the well turned dialog are provocative and laugh out loud funny, and the layers and twists of intrigue are surprising and satisfying. Did I mention the pot references? Maybe my short term memory is affected by the second hand smoke (or maybe it’s the distraction once again of women who rummage non stop through large handbags, sounding like rodents trapped in a sack. Oh well.). Granny is an old hippy and she loves her weed, giving all the great arguments for why it is wonderful and should be legit. And it does figure large in the chemistry of events.
The lively and poignant Christmas music punctuating the scenes is the work of Ben Selke. Philip Heckman dresses the cast to good effect, reflecting the characters individual personalities.
For a light look at the dark side of human nature during this holiday season, even if you suffer from winter light deprivation, ‘bah humbug’ sentiments or just run of the mill cold weather blahs, there will be something here to make you laugh and maybe even give you pause for thought.