By Bruce Norris
Directed by Bobbie Bell
Starring Thomas Ouellette, Matt Horohoe, Robin Olson and Sarah French
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL</strong>
This show recalls that obscure 1980 BusBoys lyric: “There goes the neighborhood – The whites are moving in – they’ll bring their next-of-kin.” Prophetic words indeed as the great exhalation of White America returns to the inner city. On this stage it starts with the sale of the Russ and Bev (Ouellette and Olson) property, it’s going cheap and its going to < stage whisper > A BLACK FAMILY < /stage whisper > . Oh, the horror and its up to Karl (Horohoe) and his deaf wife Betsy (French) to talk Russ out of this disaster. Turns out it’s a vengeance sale; the neighborhood rejected his son when he returned from Korea, and this is the worst thing he can think to show these bastards. In the background we find domestic help Francine (Trenell Mooring); under her meteor-proof hair helmet she smells a deal and it’s her family that is getting a shot at this American Dream. In act two, we are in the present day and guess what? All those suburbs are now traffic nightmares and convenient access to downtown is a thing worth paying for. When Lindsey (French) and Steve (Horohoe) want to McMansion the place neighbors Lena and Kevin (Mooring and Michael Sapp) object and soon a rational discussion of real-estate terminology degenerates into a power struggle played with offensive jokes and defensive self -righteousness. It’s hysterical.
The first act belongs to Mr. Ouellette. He begins as a slightly acerbic middle aged guy and ends up giving one of the best motivated rants I’ve ever seen staged. Mr. Horohoe is no slouch as the pretentions and obfuscating Kevin or the circumlocutious Steve; he could turn Dick and Jane into Proust. Ms. French always seems pregnant; she’s equally funny as the deaf and oblivious mother in pink as she is in the more politically aware hover-mom in act two. Supporting the wacky white folks is the dream team of Ms. Mooring and Mr. Sapp; he’s nicey-nice as can be even when he’s calling out his white friends; Ms. Mooring makes a nice transition from a maid horrified by the offer of a gift chafing dish to a modern woman whose only encounter with chafing occurs at the gym. Robin Olson perfectly fills the stereotype of an Ironically Ideal House Wife as well as an Ironically Divorced Real Estate Agent. And rounding out the cast we have smarmy Adam Reilley; first as the preset you want to punch out and later as the gay guy we need lest anyone one NOT be offended somewhere.
So here’s the American story of the last 100 years. First the well-to-do seek open space and acres of lawn to mow; but now they want back into the craft beer world of city sophistication. Naturally, those blacks who spent the brutal decades of crime and decline holding these properties are upset; they went through the tough years and why shouldn’t they now enjoy the fruits of gentrification? We see this even in uncool Orlando as McMansions raise the rooflines in College Park and brightly colored apartments eat up the theaters and thrift shops of Orange Avenue. Engaging and highly entertaining, this is where we sit today. We may not truly love our neighbors any more than our parents did, but if they keep up their property values I suppose we can all get along.
For more information on Mad Cow, please visit http://www.madcowtheatre.com