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The Uninvited Guest

Skillfully adapted by Michael R. Murphy from the 1998 Danish film "The Celebration" by Thomas Vinterberg, "The Uninvited Guest" depicts the shocking exposure of a father's sexual abuse of his children during the celebration of his anticipated Nobel Prize nomination.

Ryan Hilliard is excellent as the distinguished doctor/respectable father/perverted monster, Dr. Mason, but among this cast he is nearly alone in well-deserved praise. Apart from Rachel Lee Harris as Katie, his sassy, smart, but sexually licentious daughter, and Sean Matic, making his debut here as Katie's mindless date, the majority of the cast pack one side of the spectrum from so-so to downright bad.

Matic provides a pleasant breath of life for the regrettably short time he is on stage. Harris, a member of the main cast, is the only one besides Hilliard who knows how to use intentional pauses and silence for dramatic effect. In stark contrast, Jack Garrity as Tyler, the eldest son striving for the attention and approval of his father, rushes to his lines as if he might miss his chance to say them , effectively short-circuiting any dramatic tension that might have emerged otherwise.

Worst of the main cast is David Runco as Mardy. Runco, in the play's pivotal role, seems wholly unable to inhabit the character of the troubled son who, in a drunken toast, maliciously reveals the family's dark secret. During a graphic description of the abuses he suffered as a child, Runco delivers his lines as if he is reading aloud from a diary written by a stranger.

Kittson O'Neill as Tyler's wife, Claire, is without note and Jane Altman as Mrs. Mason is completely, embarrassingly at sea as the family's willfully blind and dotey matriarch.

Overall, the performance feels like a dress rehearsal in need of work. Most of the cast seems to be miming more than acting. Although director Steven McElroy clearly understands his material, he fails to draw solid performances from most of his cast. As a consequence, what might have been a tense, jarring, even devastating, drama of an ugly revelation, amounts to a mere impolite belch.

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