What could possibly go wrong during a family weekend in posh Martha’s Vineyard? Two very different brothers bring two very different romantic interests to meet the family. A demanding and highly successful father joins the mix for the weekend. In addition, the maid is sick and her daughter, a high school senior, has come to take care of the family for the weekend. Throw in a couple of juicy secrets and the occasional alcoholic beverage and these strong personalities create enough drama for an enjoyable and thought-provoking evening. SVSU has taken this contemporary family drama by Lydia R. Diamond, to show how race, class, and gender all come to collide as the LeVays, a well-to-do African American family, survive the weekend.
Director Tommy Wedge put together a production that effectively told the story of this varied group as they tussle with the differences between them. Wedge’s greatest success may be that the play never lags. The pacing is always appropriate and creates the necessary tension. He is also effective in blending together moments when two scenes occur simultaneously. During some moments, though, the blocking felt forced and distracting in constant and unmotivated movement, like when the ladies meet up in the kitchen to hash out their issues. Overall, effective storytelling by Wedge.
Colton Jordan, as the amiable Kent “Spoon” LeVay, brings a charm to the character that the play needs. He is the most likeable character. He is averse to conflict, but not toothless in his approach to his character. He just does not engage in the conflict to the same degree as everyone else. That congeniality also has its drawback as he is given fewer opportunities to show emotional depth than other cast members. His best moments are scenes downstage with both fiancée Taylor and friend/hired help Cheryl, played with an intriguing conviction by high school senior Trinity Caldwell.
Indigo Dudley, as the firebrand Taylor, provides a center for the play. Engaging most fervently in the political discussions, she embodies the conflicts of race, class, and gender throughout the play. She grew up “lower middle class” while estranged from her upper class father, a celebrated author. She excels early on with her discomfort as Cheryl waits on the group and cleans up after them. She interacts more directly than other characters with the woke white girlfriend of Flip LeVay, Kimber – played smartly by Tristian Evanoff.
The play picked up with its energy and focus when Joshua Lloyd, as father Joe LeVay, enters for the first time. Each relationship with other characters has clear motivation and meaning. His relationship with confident and (probably) oversexed son Flip – in a strong and impactful performance by Donte’ Green – provides a nice balance to the disappointment he shows with Spoon. He embodied the strong, but conflicted, father with gravitas.
The asymmetrical set by Jerry Dennis created a tension that enhanced the drama in the action of the play. The contemporary and modern design gave a clean and sharp veneer to this family in conflict. However, the blank downstage area seemed out of place given the specificity in the rest of the design. Also, the choice to use a black (or very dark) wall for part of the set threw off the dimensions of the playing space.
The light design of Jacob Kaufman was functional, effectively guiding the audience’s focus. Jennifer Lothian’s costume design was modern and appropriate to character, especially the “Warrior Not Worrier” shirt for Cheryl. The R&B vibe created in the sound design by Katie Godell gave a soothing character to the pre-show and transitions. The sound design also included some smart and subtle atmospheric effects.
This is a solid production from a group of talented artists. I stayed invested in the action. It managed to deftly handle serious issues with both weight and humor. Some articulation and projection issues, especially early on, made it difficult to get into the play. Also, the characters occasionally swung from emotion to emotion abruptly, from heightened anger or fear one moment to calm and congeniality the next. These minor issues were not significant enough to diminish this enjoyable and interesting production. The show continues the whole weekend: Friday and Saturday at 7:30 and Sunday at 3:00pm. Tickets can be purchased online, at the ticket kiosk in Curtis Hall, or at the box office starting two hours before curtain.