Written by 8:49 am Costa Mesa, Review, South Coast Repertory, Theater, Uncategorized

Appropriate @ South Coast Repertory – Review

(Photo credit: Jenny Graham/SCR)

Written by Patrick Chavis

So many powerful stories have been and will continue to be told around the subject of family. What family means in different cultures differs to various degrees, but family is also a universal concept that ties humanity together. It’s in our books. It’s on our TVs. In that tradition, South Coast Repertory put on the play Appropriate, about a family forced to deal with their past and each other, and it’s anything but appropriate.

Appropriate is a play about the estranged Lafayette family: Frank Lafayette, played by Lea Coco, Toni Lafayette, played by Shannon Cochran, Rachel Kramer-Lafayette, played by Paige Lindsey White, Bo Lafayette, played by Jamison Jones, Ainsley Kramer-Lafayette by Issac Person, Cassie Kramer-Lafayette played by Natalie Bright. They all assemble to prepare and sell their old Arkansas plantation home, surrounded by a cemetery of dead slaves. What begins as a simple business transaction between family members reawakens past traumas and a dark history the family would rather keep in the past, but the ghosts of the past have other plans. Hahhahahahahaah spooky!            

This play is dense, too dense, and it’s one of the things dragging this play down and contributing to some dull moments. There are so many things going on that it seems like the playwright is hoping something will stick. At the end of the play, you are left with all these unanswered questions. Some seem relevant, and for others, the writer gives you little reason to care. The meat and potatoes of this story are the conversation and arguments about history, legacy, and how they can be filtered into something more palatable through each family member’s experience. However, the truth never dies; this production does an exceptional job playing this out on stage.

Often it can be a challenge for the first act of a play to keep your interest. You need to introduce all the characters without it feeling forced while setting up the plot for the rest of the play. The play’s first act was great, and it even leaves you with a cliffhanger going into the second act. The second act is where this play felt heavy-handed and slow at times. However, as mentioned before, the overarching themes and storyline keep this mostly entertaining and thoughtful throughout.

This set is gorgeous for so many reasons. I don’t have enough time to talk about this off-kilter southern gothic set design from Lawrence E. Moten III, but I’ll try. The outside frame of the stage is arched in a crooked fashion. The windows are lit with a dark navy blue light covering the glass chandelier in the middle of the stage. There are multiple doors and passages and rooms the actors inhabit. The set is a character in its own right when it comes to this show.

South Coast Repertory presents “Appropriate” by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, directed by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg. Cast: Jess Andrews (River Rayner), Tessa Auberjonois (Rachael Kramer-Lafayette), Natalie Bright (Cassidy “Cassie” Kramer-Lafayette), Shannon Cochran (Antoinette “Toni” Lafayette), Lea Coco (François “Franz/Frank” Lafayette), Jamison Jones (Beauregarde “Bo” Lafayette), Isaac Person (Ainsley Kramer-Lafayette), Hunter Spangler (Rhys Thurston). Voices of America, Segerstrom Stage, January 28 – February 26, 2023

Shannon Cochran’s performance as Toni Lafayette, the tough, take no-nonsense matriarch of the family, is riveting and engaging. It’s an entirely different story, but her acting reminded me of the actress Kelly Reilly from the show Yellowstone, just as dynamic, if not more.

Appropriate may not be reinventing the wheel, but it’s hitting on something true, and that’s always interesting.

8.9 Overall
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Excellent Show! OCR Recommended!

Jan 28 – Feb 26, 2022

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