Review: “The House of Yes” in Sebastopol

Calling Wendy MacLeod’s The House of Yes a “family” show – while accurate – is not entirely truthful. Calling it a “fucked-up family” show would be infinitely more precise. The jet-black comedy is running now at Sebastopol’s Main Stage West through December 16.

Meet Mrs. Pascal (Laura Jorgensen), the matriarch of a family that has never been told “no” to anything.  She doesn’t think children are raised.  “Cattle are raised,” she says, “Children just happen.” Her son Anthony (Elijah Pinkham) has dropped out of Princeton after two months to return home and assist in the care of his sister Jackie-O (Sharia Pierce). She has a real fixation on the former First Lady (the Kennedy’s MacLean, Virginia compound is right next door) and is recovering from a condition that requires regular medication and a complete lack of stress.

~~~~~ Sam Coughlin ~~~ Sharia Pierce ~~~  Elijah Pinkham ~~~ Laura Jorgensen ~~~ Illana Niernberger ~~~~~ Production Design by Elizabeth Craven ~ Light Design by Missy Weaver

It’s Thanksgiving and Jackie-O’s twin brother Marty (Sam Coughlin) is returning home for the family gathering and bringing along a friend (Illana Niernberger). Jackie-O is delighted that her brother is coming home. You see, Jackie-O and Marty are close. How close? Well, Mrs. Pascal informs us that “Jackie’s hand was holding Marty’s penis when they came out the womb.” Her joy at her brother’s return soon turns to alarm as his friend Lesly is revealed to be his fiancé.

You see, Jackie-O and Marty are close – real close – and she won’t have Lesly come between them. Anthony thinks Marty doesn’t deserve Lesly either as he’s fallen hopelessly in love with her. Mrs. Pascal will have none of it as well, as a Donut King waitress is beneath her son. “Men do not marry girls who smell like powdered sugar,” she says. “They have a sordid affair with them which they recall fondly in their twilight years.”

All of this is happening while a hurricane is approaching, but the family is already operating at a Category 5 level. Catastrophic damage will most definitely occur before the storm passes, but who will be left standing?

Director/production designer Elizabeth Craven has put together a show that will make your own uncomfortable holiday family gatherings seem like picnics in paradise. The cast is terrific, with Sharia Pierce following up her award-winning work as a severely damaged individual in MSW’s Blackbird with a boffo turn here as an even more severely damaged individual.  Jorgensen’s matriarch may have been the model for Arrested Development’s Lucille Bluth with a drink in her hand and a cutting remark on her lips at all times. Pinkham, last seen in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time at Spreckels, shows he has range with his work as Anthony. Coughlin does well as the brother whose escape to the world of normalcy is short lived – literally – and Niernberger is solid as a fish out of water who’s soon swimming in the Pascal pond.

The House of Yes isn’t for everyone. I imagine some folks could be put off by the material (believe me, you won’t think of the Kennedy assassination the same way ever again) and despite its Thanksgiving setting, it is certainly not what can be called a “holiday” show. It’s a brutally funny, eviscerating look at the privileged class taken to the extreme. Or maybe not.  

Rating (out of 5): ★★★★

 ‘The House of Yes’ runs through Dec. 16 at Main Stage West, 104 N. Main St., Sebastopol. Thu–Sat, 8pm; Sunday at 5pm. $15–$30. 707.823.0177 mainstagewest.com

Photos by Eric Chazankin

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