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Killers and Other Family

Reviewed by Elias Stimac

Presented by Rattlestick Productions at Rattlestick Theatre, 224 Waverly Pl., NYC. Opened Jan. 20 for an open run.

"Killers and Other Family," a new play by Lucy Thurber, is frustrating more than anything else. The production features an impressive New York loft setting by Charles Kirby, manic modern music and sound by Jason Mills, decent lighting by Bobby Harrell, and credible costumes by David M. Barber.

The actors also display an intriguing level of talent, from Ana Reeder as ambitious, determined Elizabeth to Tessa Auberjonois as sweetly supportive Claire, and from Dan Snook's moody, mischievous Danny to Jason Weinberg's amiably awkward Jeff. Even Rick Sordelet's fight choreography is effective in the intimate venue. All the elements seem to be in place for a highly charged look at a dysfunctional foursome of friends.

All of which makes the evening particularly disappointing, because the play just doesn't ring true. What starts out as a character study of an independent young woman on her own in the big city who must deal with the titular visitors from her hometown soon turns into an unsavory exercise in abusive behavior and verbal manipulation. But the girl isn't the only victim; she lashes out just as much as the two men, sometimes unnecessarily so. And the entrance of a fourth character, her lesbian roommate, only confounds the situation more. Why she doesn't bolt out the door any time during the escalating shouting match and ensuing violence is beyond comprehension (even after an attempted rape, she complacently cowers in a corner).

Thurber's disjointed script is not saved by director John Lawler's energized staging, which raises more questions than it answers. Instead of finding organic transitions between Elizabeth's emotional swings, he allows the actress to simply lash out in a schizophrenic fury immediately after a calm moment of reason. Maybe Danny really does have control over her, but those unmotivated actions just don't seem appropriate for the girl we met at the beginning of the play.

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