Reviewed by Cindy Pierre
What Jackie O wants, Jackie O gets, even if it falls outside of moral standards and societal acceptance. If you can absorb that, then you are well on your way to understanding the premise of Wendy MacLeod's The House of Yes. As Jackie O, a relentless Colleen Allen, sharp in black from head to toe, emulates a Norma Desmond persona minus the age with histrionics and a loose grip on reality. And she's spoiled and rich to boot. Maura Farver directs Allen through a frenetic intro to the stage, and her energy hardly drops a notch throughout the performance. With an unnamed emotional disorder, Jackie O is an amalgam of crazy and sexy, but never cool. As she struts about the stage, however, there are instances where her face is completely hidden from view by a section of the house. A simple reconsideration of her movements can remedy that.
20 years after JFK's assassination, the Pascal household hosts Thanksgiving dinner and a welcome home of sorts to Marty (an unremarkable James Hutchison), Jackie O's generously affectionate twin brother. There is the fawn-like Anthony (sweet and earnest John Buxton), the baby of the siblings, and their mother Mrs. Pascal (Margret Avery, reminiscent of Katey Sagal), an aristocratic, bland bore. Marty has brought home his fiancee, doltish but kind waitress Lesly (Robyn Frank, displaying a quiet, reserved strength), and the family, i.e. Jackie O, is in an uproar. Not a family member, living creature or circumstance can take her precious Marty away from her. And the rest of the family all condone her behavior, one way or another.
With a passive hostility, Jackie O sticks it to Lesly at every turn, waving class differences and her relationship with Marty in her face, but Lesly does not necessarily, ahem, lie down and take it. To thicken the plot, the family harbors a "secret" that could change the course of the impending wedding.
Although the secret is disconcerting, it is hardly camouflaged and does not come as a shocking revelation. For something so explosive, a little more tact could have been utilized by MacLeod, but very little else mars her smart writing. The characters lobby quick dialogue back and forth as they traverse Adrienne Kapalko's busy but practical set design. The eerie violin music by sound designer Greg H. Hennigan is just the right touch needed to link one creepy scene to another. As dysfunctional as the family is, I found it rather difficult to swallow that every single family member was so passe about their dirty little secret and the aftermath of its disclosure. Also, despite the well-oiled, entertaining production, the material is as flippant as the characters themselves. But if you like your theatre all froth and no broth, this show is a must-see.
Through June 10th. Neighborhood Playhouse 340 East 54th Street, New York, NY 10022 Tickets: 212-352-3101. $15