Written by Scotty Keister
Next to the Kardashians, the Kennedy’s are probably the best-known family in the U.S. or at least they were for a good thirty years, anyway. One could argue they’re the closest thing to a royal family we’ve ever had, and for a long time they inspired an equivalent kind of obsession in the American psyche. The many tragedies the Kennedy’s suffered left some deeply felt scars in that same psyche. Wendy MacLeod’s clever and funny play, The House of Yes, explores the myth of the Kennedy’s some twenty years after JFK’s murder. The Stages Theatre production, directed by Jack Millis, gets a lot of the dark laughs yet leaves many questions about the Kennedy legend unanswered.
Millis has assembled a thoroughly entertaining and skilled cast who nail the jokes and get the satiric tone just right. The actual story concerns the Pascal family, who live in a well-to-do Virginia suburb somewhat near the Kennedy clan, and who have been grievously scarred by the Kennedy tragedies. Jackie O, the Pascal’s adult daughter, has never gotten over JFK’s assassination and still wears her hair and dresses like her namesake . Stages veteran Darri Kristin plays her as caustic, funny, and batshit crazy. Equally funny and crazy is Jill Cary Martin’s portrayal of the family matriarch, Mr. Pascal. Martin gets some of the best joke lines in the show: “I’m going to the kitchen to baste the turkey and hide all the sharp objects,” or “People raise cattle; children just happen.” Adam Evans does eccentric comedic work playing younger brother, Anthony.
On the occasion of a very stormy Thanksgiving night, Jackie O’s twin brother Marty comes home from N.Y. with his surprise fiancé, Lesly. This throws Jackie O off the deep end. Recently returned from a mental hospital and still heavily medicated, Jackie has had a lifelong obsession with her brother, a seriously questionable obsession as we will soon learn. The more young & innocent Lesly (the fiancé) learns about the Pascals, the more she wants to get the hell out, hurricane be damned. Aaron McGee’s Marty, is the one unfunny role in the show, but McGee does a fine job playing a character torn between wanting to escape the family and being inextricably sucked back in. Kelsey Arnold charmingly plays the unfortunate Lesly, who is bewildered but still outspoken.
See, Mrs. Pascal is all about keeping the family intact and at home, ALL her children, and will stop at nothing to see it done. She indulges Jackie, giving her anything she wants, hence the title House of Yes . There is even a suggestion this led to the former Mr. Pascal being buried in the back yard. One could easily read this as a stinging satire of the self-indulgent and slightly incestuous rich man’s culture in the U.S., emblematic of the Kennedy’s, who were never brought down by the justice system, but still remained subject to the whims of fate. And soon we realize, the Pascals are no strangers to tragedy either. It all sounds kind of heavy, but really the story is played for laughs all along, albeit some very dark laughs. Millis does a great job of keeping the tone light and breezy. MacLeod’s dialog is smart and witty, and the brisk pace brings the play to a conclusion in a scant 70 minutes.
On the surface it comes off as a deadly satire, served with a generous helping of laughs. It was only after I walked out of the theater that I started asking myself all the questions MacLeod left buried beneath the laughs: What does this say about us as a people? Will we ever get over the Kennedy’s? Should crazy people keep guns in the house?
The House of Yes runs Saturdays and Sundays at 5:00 through June 13.