Can anyone ever escape their past? Or is it inevitable that your past will eventually catch up with you?
In Killers and Other Family (an attention grabbing title) written by Lucy Thurber (an attention grabbing writer) now running at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre Elizabeth (Samantha Soule) is working at home in her Upper West Side apartment (nicely outfitted by John McDermott) on her Ph.D which is a bit overdue. She is calm and organized and eating an apple when she is interrupted by a knock on the door. She thinks it might be her roommate Claire (Aya Cash). She is mistaken and immediately starts to unravel. It’s her brother Jeff (Dashiell Eaves) who has arrived without notice with his best buddy and her ex-lover Danny (Shane McRae) whom she has told her brother to never bring him along to the Big Apple. They’re in big trouble and they need money. And until they get what they want, they stay.
It is this threesome that Claire discovers when she comes home early from work making a memorable entrance and becomes embroiled in their past and present problems. There is plenty of beer and Jack Daniels, nudity and unexpected violence that erupts as Lizzie becomes unhinged at the thought that she has to face her old demons once again and bring an innocent bystander into her past troubled world.
Abuse has many faces – physical, verbal and mental. All three are tackled in Killers and Other Family in a play that explores this territory with a fresh insight into the dark secrets of Lizzie and Jeff and Danny’s lives.
The acting is of the highest caliber. As all four actors embrace their roles totally we begin to get so involved (the hour and a half flies by) that they are no longer actors but those characters in a very nasty situation.
Shane McRae especially is someone to fear. One look from him and you jump. In a break through performance he takes over immediately, grabbing Lizzie’s apple and ordering her to get him a beer and sitting on the sofa as if he were entitled. He’s absolutely menacing. And attractive and charming (in his own rough manner). We see Lizzie’s attraction and fear simultaneously. How will she ever get out of this mess?
Jeff and she have a lot of problems especially dealing with sibling rivalry and their tramp of a mother. They’re explosive. Claire provides some stability and humor. Aya Cash gives a tense, contained and most wonderfully vulnerable performance. But it is the main character of Lizzie that we see evolve from the calm and controlled person that she is trying so desperately to be to the almost manic and desperate person that she becomes in the presence of her past. It’s a wonderful nuanced performance given by Samantha Soule.
Caitriona McLaughlin has done a masterful job in directing this piece and is helped immensely by the fight direction of David Anzuelo who gives the cast some work out in the extremely realistic and spontaneous violence that ensues.
Killers and Other Family is a thought provoking and disturbing play that should be seen. Through October 11th. Tickets $45.00
www.rattlestick.org Photo: Sandra Coudert