nytheatre.com review by Heather Lee Rogers
June 14, 2011
I love the title of the play Our Lot, by Kristin Newbom and W. David Hancock in Clubbed Thumb’s Summerworks series. According to the dictionary, a “lot” can mean the drawing of objects (like straws) to decide something, a portion of inheritance, a piece of land or property, the life one’s been dealt by fortune, and also a great amount of something. All meanings apply significantly to this fine-spun and complex play.
In Our Lot three grown siblings reunite in the wake of their stepfather Karl’s death to clear out the house and property. When the play begins they have moved into the backyard to begin clearing out a shed that has been stuffed with plastic storage bins, each with the name of a different historical person on it (like Einstein, Jackie Kennedy, John Wayne, etc.). Each plastic bin holds various worthless items that their stepfather thought was important or symbolic to that person’s life. And there are a LOT of them. At times they cover the entire stage (brilliantly designed by Timothy R. Mackabee). The shed has to be cleared out and bug-bombed by midnight according to the bank. This simple, physical activity brilliantly comprises the structure of the entire play.
Kathy, the younger sister, does the bulk of the work, grimly trying to empty all the boxes into a large green dumpster without getting caught up in the past they contain. Kathy has brought her boyfriend Toby, a war vet in a wheelchair whom she met in Alcoholics Anonymous. Alice, her older sister gets distracted easily; she wants to live in the sentimental memories of her childhood and is more interested in cracking why the boxes are significant than the approaching bank deadline. Their brother, Stig, is not much help either. As a notably gifted child he suffered a brain injury in an accident and, though appearing in his late 30s, he is stuck emotionally at the level of a 14-year-old and is cared for in a group home where he lives. Stig is the only one of the siblings to have liked their stepfather at all. He maintains that their stepfather did not die of cancer last week but rather of poetry, “a tropical disease”, which he “picked up over in 'Nam…. He met a guy there who had a book of poems. Karl read the poems and they infected his soul.” Their mother, who suffered from fits of intense rage which Kathy inherited, walked out on them thirty years ago while they were kids and has never been heard from again.
So as the siblings clean up this “lot,” they are also dealing with their lots in life and their relationships to each other and their past. They haggle over the money and property. They fight over their childhood memories: what really happened, what was invented later, and how they each have a right to feel about it. As they dig through the bins it gets tense and ugly. According to Stig, their cryptic stepfather Karl maintained that “family is like an excavation site.” In Our Lot, through the action of digging through old stuff, the siblings dig into their emotional baggage. Through the dust, junk, sweat, and bad-smelling-grime a sad family and their love for each other is revealed.
I love that for a play about throwing away garbage, this one is so ripe with moments of beauty and poetry. The cast of four are a tight and complimentary ensemble. I particularly enjoyed Paul Neibanck’s inventive and fanciful work as Stig and Joanna P. Adler’s work as Kathy, the wounded, defensive sister. I also appreciated the subtle and graceful way the lights brought the play from day into night (designed by Gina Scherr). Congratulations to director May Adrales and Clubbed Thumb for such a satisfying and intricate production. Catch it this week only at HERE!