Thursday, December 8, 2016

Red Door: "In-laws, Outlaws, and Other People (That Should be Shot)"

Director Tom Salter has a mix of Union Springs newcomers and veteran actors in the Red Door Theatre's production of Steve Franco's comedy In-laws, Outlaws, and Other People (That Should be Shot). And this is good for the development of an already vibrant company as it encourages new talent on stage.

Franco's large cast of characters calls for a wide range of ages for both men and women, and while most of them are on stage a lot, there are several minor roles to provide experience and exposure as they contribute to the whole picture.

The play is set on a snowy Christmas Eve in Brooklyn, NY [Southern accents abound in this production] where a dysfunctional family gather for dinner, only to be held hostage by a pair of inept criminals whose frustrations build as the assorted family air long-held complaints and engage in verbal barbs with one another and with nosy neighbors.

Though much of the script stretches credibility to the extreme [everyone seems to accept the hostage taking with barely a flinch while they continue their idiosyncratic behavior as if nothing had happened; and there are several opportunities for individuals to either escape or to call the police while they are not being watched], Salter's actors achieve notable characterizations and keep audiences engaged for the play's short two acts.

While the ensemble display each of their characters' specific quirks clearly, there are some standouts: as Beth, Caroline Gables captures the sullen sarcasm of a young teenager who barely tolerates adults, but whose common sense clears the air several times;; Charlotte Phillips plays neighbor Mrs. Draper with absolute confidence, her matter-of-fact pronouncements are refreshing reminders that some people don't need to disguise their feelings to be politically correct.

What carries the day in this production are the combined efforts of the two criminals -- Tony [Alonzo Russell] and Vinny [Eric Arvidson] -- as they take over the household and are increasingly frustrated by the antics of the family. Mr. Russell is the one in charge [he has the gun, after all], and Mr. Arvidson is the "second banana" who follows orders and takes things literally, and whose vegetarianism ingratiates himself to similarly inclined Beth.

In the spirit of the Christmas season, the family come to the aid of their captors when the police arrive, as they have learned that Tony had lost his job and had stolen the money to provide Christmas for his family. -- Forgiveness, after all, is an important message at any time of year, and helping those in need is generally more pronounced at Christmas.