THEATER REVIEW: Killers and Other Family

Pictured L to R: Samantha Soule (Lizzie), Shane McRae (Danny), Dashiell Eaves (Jeff) and Aya Cash (Claire) Photo credit: Sandra Coudert

Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, dedicated to fostering and nurturing emerging writers, opened its 15th season with a revamp of a production that first saw the stage during the company’s inaugural season, Lucy Thurber’s Killers and Other Family. For fans of the play and novices alike, this marvelous piece was definitely worth the wait.

With a fresh rewrite and a new creative team, Killers soars. The play opens on a New York City apartment where Elizabeth (skillfully portrayed by Samantha Soule) is trying to finish her dissertation, but is interrupted by unannounced guests. Through the entry of “Lizze’s” brother and his best friend, Thurber skillfully teases the audience with bits of information, each one an additional clue to the dark nature of the visit. As characters are introduced and relationships are explained, we realize things aren’t exactly what they seem.

It becomes apparent that no one can share control of the moment, and a beautifully orchestrated game unfolds where the power is bobbled back and forth between characters like a rubber ball in a schoolyard. Each sweeps in taking his or her turn, even if they must do so forcefully. The level of discomfort created by Thurber is enhanced by the talented cast, who bring the appropriate level of craze and comfort to their characters. Soule’s Lizzie incites both anger and pity, Dashiell Eaves and Shane McRae’s Jeff and Danny recall a more demented, drunker versions of Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum, and Aya Cash breaks your heart with her sweet Claire, a character so caught up in something she doesn’t understand that it is hard not to reach out and offer her help from your seat. The design team creates a realistic NYC apartment, playing up claustrophobic elements when necessary, and the intimate space of Rattlestick’s theater truly pushes the action past the audience’s comfort level, with many gasping and moving uncomfortably in their seats, but also works to move them on an emotional level.

Lucy Thurber’s Killers and Other Family will run through Saturday, October 17 at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (224 Waverly Place). For more information including the performance schedule, and to purchase tickets, go HERE.

Elizabeth Sorrell

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