When your past hits you like a sledgehammer, how do you react and what do you do to improve the situation? This question is intimately explored in Lucy Thurber's Killers and Other Family.
This play revolves around Elizabeth, who believes she has escaped her nightmarish past only to find her brother and his dangerous buddy on her doorstep. Elizabeth is about to finish her dissertation and is very much in love with Claire. Her brother's Jeff and his best friend's Danny's arrival forces Elizabeth to confront her past and finally make a decision about the kind of person she wants to be. In a waking nightmare, Elizabeth experiences deeply rooted fears and memories that manifest in an all too real way.
You know how it feels when you walk into the middle of a conversation and have no idea what's going on? That's what the beginning of this play felt like for me, in large part because of the choppy writing. I felt like I had walked in at intermission and had missed the first act. The beginning felt inert, like a video that had been set on slo-mo. But, then, when everyone sat down to lunch, the cast found a rhythm and what had been stagnet and plodding, suddenly came alive.
Considering the fact that Brock Benson (as Danny) had to do full nudity, rape a woman, and drink enough alcohol to kill a liver in one sitting - all while battling his own demons - I'd say this is one of the most impressive Denver debuts I've ever witnessed. And to top it all off, he served at times as comic relief in this dark, brutal drama. The men's hairstyles - as a nice illustration of character and setting - are also worth mentioning, and the men's tattoos added a visual signal that supported their personalities perfectly. Allison Smith as Claire and Ryan Goold as Jeff commanded their roles and had excellent stage presence. Elizabeth Nodich as Elizabeth did a wonderful job with the challenging role. My only criticism is that there was no obvious behavioral contrast between Elizabeth and Lizzie (Elizabeth's alter ego of her past), which would have helped communicate the character's difficult internal struggle and draw us deeper into the complexity of her damaged psyche.
The show was quite compelling and the actors gave it their all, but there were a couple of components that I wish they had taken a step further. For example, when the men are at the women's apartment they leave it in some mild disarray. They should have completely trashed the place to better demonstrate the devastation of the women not only internally, but externally. Also, I would like to have had Claire react more emotionally when she finds out her girlfriend had sex with a man (Danny) just prior to her returning home (in that same situation, any of my lesbian friends would have totally freaked out!). Claire's confusion and anger fell short in the dire situation.
Even with these small bumps in the play, director Charles Nuckolls must be commended for the many components that worked so well. The violence - though hard to watch - is not only appropriate, but necessary for the story to be told to its fullest. Also, I appreciated the range and depth of Danny's character arc from start to finish. Danny actually seemed the driving force of the show. In direct contrast with Danny's external range was Jeff's internal struggle between deciding to defend his best friend or his kid sister and was fascinating to watch.
. As an examination of character, trauma, and interpersonal dynamics, Killlers and Other Family works well.
The Edge Theatre Company presents the regional premiere of Killers and Other Family, May 6th through June 5th with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 6:00pm, and an Industry Night Performance on Monday, May 23 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 303-232-0363or visit them online at www.theedgetheatre.com. Due to violence, nudity, and adult content, this show is not suitable for children.
PHOTOS CREDITS: Charles Nuckolls
(L-R) Brock Benson, Elizabeth Nodich, Ryan Goold, Allison Thomas
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Michael Mulhern has lived in Denver and been active in it's theater scene for over 10 years. He is originally from Wiesbaden, Germany and graduated with a BFA in Theater Performance from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Currently he performs in one to two shows a year and is a proud member of the Denver Gay Men's Chorus. Some of Michael's favorite performances include - Lend Me a Tenor, Guys and Dolls, The Shadow Box, Buried Child, and Jeffrey. He is proud to represent Denver and it's growing theater community on BroadwayWorld.com!|
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