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Kennedy's Children

By Robert Patrick
Directed by Mark Owen
MollyHouse Company
Phebe's '74
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Maya T. Amis

The 20th -anniversary production of Kennedy's Children was performed in a former bar, decorated to evoke a tavern of 1974. The characters entered through the front door, sat at the bar, drank, and talked. The audience was seated at the tables and benches away from the bar, and the action took place almost literally in their laps. This intimacy added a measure of urgency and reality to the play; there was none of the distancing that happens when there is a stage. There isn't all that much of a plot: some people sit around a bar and talk. What is interesting is that they talk about themselves and thereby reveal just how much they have been shaped by their times. In this case, of course, the times are the sixties, and each has been affected very differently by the same series of events. Sparger is a gay man who is nostalgic for the familial setting of early alternative theatre. He is somewhat of a stereotype: bitchy, vulnerable and intelligent, but Craig Archibald generally managed to make him believable. Richard Freda played a traumatized veteran who has been seriously damaged emotionally. Freda made him a judicious mixture of wild-eyed killer and immature boy. A would-be sex goddess, born just a touch too late, was played as a mixture of Marilyn and Ann-Margret by the lovely Maggie Moore, who made the most of her faux-naive lines. Suzanne O'Neill played a slightly older woman whose dreams were still of Camelot, and who endlessly rehashes the assassination of JFK. Finally, Amy Stiller was a hippie chick who has grown up just a bit. She managed to convey the personality of someone who still has dreams, but who is all too well aware of the reality. There is, of course, also a bartender, played by Jeff Watkins.

These people do not really interact with each other at all. They are each alone in their memories and dreams and seek solace in being with their own kind, but are always isolated. For all of them, clearly, drinking is anesthesia, simultaneously blunting the pain of nostalgia and encouraging it. Robert Patrick's play deals in types, but types that are familiar to those who were around at the time, and his writing has moments of eloquent lyricism. Director Mark Owen made the most of his wonderful surroundings, designed by Michael Perelman. From the period posters on the wall, the beaded curtains, and the psychedelic lamp behind the bar, this place was absolutely perfect. So were Audrey Fisher's costumes. They were both accurate recreations and witty commentary on fashion gone by (although now being revived). Lights were no-frills, appropriately enough, as done by Joe Saint, and music and sound were unobtrusively handled by Tony Boutte. Well-chosen musical selections set the mood throughout the show and during breaks.

Box Score:
Writing 2
Directing 2
Acting 2
Set 2
Costumes 2
Lighting/Sound 1
Copyright 1996 Maya T. Amis

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