Neil Labute’s “In a Dark Dark House” Illuminates A Most Riveting and Unusual Brotherly Drama

Photo Courtesy of Bobby Quillard

Photo Courtesy of Bobby Quillard

Child molestation with incestuous implications – Two brothers sharing the history in kind at the hands of the self same adult—but maybe not quite…  Two male siblings:  One more at odds with the other than the other brother to most mysterious and ultimately arresting effect…

Melrose Avenue is vibrant and awash with color in all its desolate glory at this otherwise customarily social hour of 7 o’clock on a Friday night in a manner only a fellow Angelino would understand.  Murals adorning mostly after-hour storefronts wink and gossip as I glide past.  A smirk symbolically curls around all collective, corporate, and creatively custom a cartoon character inhabiting each fresco as I, the only pedestrian in this sidewalk of Missing Persons *walks* in L.A.  : )

Photo Courtesy of Bobby Quillard

Photo Courtesy of Bobby Quillard

The green awning of The Matrix Theatre beckons in the near distance and I will eventually come to discover, in comparison to most Angelino theatre complexes, that I feel as though there is a happy glitch in the Matrix itself as it is determined how roomy and fourth-wall-sustaining (particularly when it comes to the bathrooms—separate for audience and actors alike!) the venue truly is.  As I enter, I am awed by the lobby’s spacious glory.  Ferns and warmly hewn wooden Victorian-style hutches hospitably nestle amongst padded benches adorning the picture windows that look out on to L.A.’s most famously trendy strip!  Box office representative Laura is warm and affable, flanked by her seemingly co-welcoming cohort Chris, who I will later come to learn moonlights as our friendly neighborhood stage manager.  I make sure to inform him that, not only will I incorporate our run-in in the review but will also take note of whether or not I feel the stage is well-managed.—Trust me.  It is!

Up and coming actor Gerald serves a mean glass of Chardonnay and I begin to get that contented warm, fuzzy feeling of being nestled in for the evening.  Photos of venerable and celebrated past productions, featuring many-a-recognizable actor hearkening back as far as the early nineteen eighties, adorn the walls and I am further amazed at how august of a venue this is.

Photo Courtesy of Bobby Quillard

Photo Courtesy of Bobby Quillard

Upon theatrical entry, the set (upon the exceedingly well-managed stage thanks to Chris) is adorned with blue-lit scrim to the rear, a well constructed, simulated stone wall, and copious amounts of grass, serving as Astro-turf.  This bucolically, pastoral setting is enough to bolster one’s mood further.  Little does the audience know just how ironic this effect will be rendered…

Photo Courtesy of Bobby Quillard

Photo Courtesy of Bobby Quillard

Lights come up on two thirty-something brothers. The primary setting:  The stately grounds of a mental hospital in which younger brother Drew, played by a very natural and talented Shaun Sipos, sits in an ironic wheelchair, bandage over one eye to a visiting Terry, portrayed by a rather intense and arresting, Aaron McPherson. Both agree childhood molestation, at the hands of the same adult, occurred for each, to uniform and appalled consequence—initially…  But what if each brother’s experience ultimately reveals itself to have been completely diametrically opposed to shocking and most unanticipated effect?! And what if the more seemingly damaged of the brothers exacts a rather odd revenge to unconventional and unanticipated corollary?  Neil Labute explores just this in his recently penned play In a Dark Dark House.

Directed by Larry Moss, the piece takes place in “America 2007”.  Aside from a courtyard of a mental hospital, additional outdoor settings will include a mini-golf course (wherein Terry encounters the shared pedophile’s, now teenaged, daughter Jennifer, played by a somewhat sprightly and animated Annie Chernecky), along with  Drew’s backyard.  Unquestionably riveting, this play captures the audience’s attention most palpably in a manner that suggests the head seamstress better not have left a pin in any of the actors’ hemlines lest a few too many loose threads, along with gravity, disrupt the audience’s rapt, steel-line-of-tension absorption on the unfolding tale.

Photo Courtesy of Bobby Quillard

Photo Courtesy of Bobby Quillard

Sets by John Iacovelli are exquisite.  Lighting by Watson Bradshaw quite ambient, particularly as–at the play’s conclusion–the last rays of sunshine shimmer behind Drew’s house to the fading of the day, winding down of his release party and disintegration of just a few more brotherly barriers…

Performances run the gamut from Shaun Sipos’ wonderfully natural and organic, somewhat manic vulnerability, to that of the more decidedly theatrical.  Aaron McPherson gives it his all and one can deduce his abject commitment to the character and said character’s emotions.  Catharsis flutters behind the eyes leaving the audience no choice but to empathize right along with him.  In comparison to Sipos’, delivery however, McPherson’s lines sound somewhat more theatrical and recited rather than organically spontaneous.  Annie Chernecky, as the fifteen-year-old former molester’s daughter, while somewhat plucky and energetic, is unfortunately most stilted and unnatural in her delivery.

Photo Courtesy of Bobby Quillard

Photo Courtesy of Bobby Quillard

Irrespective of the varied acting skills in question, the play itself is an absolute must see! From its incessant, dramatic tension, to shocking and unpredictable twists and revelations, (none of which shall be revealed herein) it will keep you wanting more as you steadily wear out the edge of your seat!

In a Dark Dark House Runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 3 pm until August 31st at the gloriously beautiful and spacious Matrix Theatre:  7657 Melrose Avenue, Los Angels, CA 90046

For more information please call or visit:  (323) 960-7612 or www.darkhousela.com,

www.facebook.com/darkhouselosangeles, Twitter@darkhousela 

Jennifer K. Hugus

About Jennifer K. Hugus

Jennifer K. Hugus was born at a very young age. At an even earlier age, she just knew she would one day write for the LA Beat! Having grown up in Massachusetts, France, and Denmark, she is a noted fan of Asian Cuisine. She studied ballet at the Royal Danish Ballet Theatre and acting at U.S.C. in their prestigious BFA drama program. She also makes her own jewelry out of paints and canvas when she isn’t working on writing absurdist plays and comparatively mainstream screenplays. Jennifer would like to be a KID when she grows up!
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