Angela Theresa Egic goes to “A House in the Suburbs”

Once again, found myself back at the little theatre, American Theatre of Actors; running a bit late. I’d like to thank the MTA for that fun. The bus system in Astoria, Queens appears to always know when I’m right on time, then feeling great about my perfect timing, a bus driver either 1) calls in sick or 2) decides not to run the route at the correct time. Second time this week I ended up in a Lyft.

Police had 54th Street closed to traffic, nevertheless, making me even later by having to walk from the avenue to the theatre. Later I would learn this was a precaution due to a march in Times Square regarding Memphis, and the killing there. The ATA is in the same building as the police station.

I missed a few minutes of A House In the Suburbs by Bruce Lawder. Nevertheless, in this family drama I could catch up in only a few minutes as a teenaged daughter, Julie portrayed by the lovely Amanda Schussel as she discussed life in the 60s, with her stay-at-home Mother, portrayed as excellently by Emmy Potter. Visually and acting-wise, Amanda had me wondering if she was actually an older teen. Although, her bio tells me she may be a bit older.

This cast certainly made an excellent family of the 60s, in the suburbs. There was a lot of conversation between the mother and daughter filling in the situations. Yes, it established the era where young men, including Julie’s older (almost 19-years-old) boyfriend, Roman who would enter a bit later, played by Austin Boatwright, very effective as a boy about to be a man. How the young men, including Julie’s unseen brother, were trying to stay out of Vietnam. How the father’s felt they (their son’s) were shirking their duty as men to fight for their country.

Julie’s mother assuring herself that her son (the unseen brother) was not “really gay” and that he used that to get out of the Vietnam War . . . er, well, as argued then (and now), a police conflict. And Julie being the voice of the young people of the 60s, almost 17-years-old, wanting to be called a woman; opposed at her youthful title of young lady.

Upon discussing the play, during the intermission, another audience member and me noted that, in the 60s, the term gay may be a bit premature if this was set in the 60s/70s. If memory serves “gay” still meant happy in those days and queer meant homosexual.

With the entrance of Granny, Amy Losi, it really picked up with her exciting performance as another generations point-of-view.

If anything to critic, the characters are in the writing, exactly what you may expect. Spoiler Alert! Do not read this next paragraph until after seeing the show.

The teens torn between wanting to please their parents and defy them in the next minute. Julie ends up obeying and, for the most part, does what her parents want. Roman leaves his own home and goes abroad, ultimately running away from killing innocent people. He a lover and not a fighter. David Allard as John Cape (The Father) and even Roman’s father Sven Harvardt played by Richard Fisher, both were written as stern, in their own way, and set in their ways. Both families are broken, even from the beginning, to some degree. And touches on the age-old issues of teens wanting to be free, or more than their parents, and the parents wanting them to be what they want for them. The choice of how to get the children to comply is handled differently by each family.

The acting was excellent by the cast. And Amy really impressed me going from the stoic nurse in one play, see my other review, to this snobby upper class American of yesteryear. I got to see her in two very different roles. These actors were well-suited with the dramatic script. Despite it being a bit predictable, and non-existing foreshadowing. The script gave away the outcome several times. No surprises. Did it need surprises? I am not sure.

A bit of editing to not give away too much in the dialogue would have upped the pace. The scene with the mother and daughter seemed a bit longer than needed. Not taking away from the capable actresses, it just felt more Bruce Lawder was telling more than showing in several instances.

All in all, it is a good chance to see these actors do what actors can do, even with the predictability of their characters. The play is interesting, just in need of a bit of editing. There is emotion in all of it, and it keeps us all in. A bit more of an arc for the older men, if possible.

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