Appropriate: Family Battle is a Must—Theatre

Appropriate1Appropriate,” the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company‘s latest offering, written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and directed by Liesl Tommy, is a gripping drama sprinkled with very dark, pointed humor throughout. One thing is certain—after watching the play’s Lafayette family rip one another apart, “Appropriate” certainly made me feel better about my parents, siblings and our relationships.

Often family secrets, slights and hurts come out into the open at funerals or readings of a loved one’s will. Such is the case of the Lafayette family. They’ve come from New York, DC and Oregon to Arkansas to clean up their late father’s home so it can be auctioned off. A chance retrieval of a never-before-seen photo album full of horrific photos is the spark that lights the fuse, as the Lafayette family explodes before our very eyes.

“Appropriate” will make you feel uncomfortable at times because the battles between siblings and significant others are so intense. Sometimes you’ll feel like a child caught between two unhappily married parents. Other times viewing the play is like being a fly on the wall, but unlike the insect, you can’t just fly from the uncomfortable situation.

But in truth, you won’t want to flee, because, as usual, the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company has brought together a terrific cast of actors. Deborah Hazlett, as Toni, the oldest sibling, is a force of nature. Toni spent many years taking care of their father along with her own family, and has a huge chip on her shoulder for so doing. Hazlett is the embodiment of years of simmering frustration, resentment and anger which finally boil over.  David Bishins is very good as the middle sibling, Bo, who has kept his distance and as a result, at first blush, seems to have raised a normal family. Beth Hylton as Bo’s wife, Rachael, gives a powerful performance as woman with her own deep-seated family resentments. Finally, Tim Getman is terrific as the youngest Lafayette sibling, Frank, who went off to Oregon to get away from his troubled youth. The supporting cast is also exceptional—Caitlin McColl as River Rayner, Frank’s much younger girlfriend; Josh Adams as Rhys, Toni’s son who’ll soon be going off to live with his father; and most especially, Maya Brettell as Cassie, Bo and Rachael’s 13-year-old daughter.  She is fabulous as the teenager with the heart of an old soul.

Once again, Woolly’s sets are amazing and for “Appropriate” are designed by Clint Ramos, a newcomer to the Company. What he’s done to create chaos in the home is phenomenal.

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins has written a powerful play with many memorable lines of dialogue that will stay with you, long after you’ve left  the Woolly. If you love theatre, you owe it to yourself to pay the Lafayettes a visit. Just stay out of the line of fire.

Runs through December 1.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

3 ½ nuggets out of 4

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