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Bad Hurt on Cedar Street

Scripter Mark Kemble has distilled his memories of his adult retarded sister into a flawed but emotion-searing sojourn through the tribulations of a monumentally dysfunctional Irish-American New England family. Kemble thrusts the burden of holding the ripped shreds of this family together into the weary but rigid hands of family matriarch Elaine Kendall, performed with heart-rending intensity and commitment by Lisa Richards. Helmer Salome Jens impressively guides an excellent ensemble through the emotional chaos that swirls about Elaine, achieving a believable flow to the needs and deeds that afflict this woman's daily life.

Scripter Mark Kemble has distilled his memories of his adult retarded sister into a flawed but emotion-searing sojourn through the tribulations of a monumentally dysfunctional Irish-American New England family. Kemble thrusts the burden of holding the ripped shreds of this family together into the weary but rigid hands of family matriarch Elaine Kendall, performed with heart-rending intensity and commitment by Lisa Richards. Helmer Salome Jens impressively guides an excellent ensemble through the emotional chaos that swirls about Elaine, achieving a believable flow to the needs and deeds that afflict this woman’s daily life.

This legit’s weakness is its overdependence on Elaine to not only keep the family functioning but inevitably to solve all of its emerging problems, commanding the evolution of the thematic throughline right to the end. No one can move without her. The dramatic choices become overly predictable and wearying.

Eldest son Kent (Grant Sullivan), drug-addled from injuries suffered while serving in Desert Storm, is either comatose on his bed or screaming for pain pills. Twenty-something daughter Phoebe (Iris Gilad), retarded since birth, is physically unrestrainable when she gets upset, which is almost constantly. Underachieving younger son Todd (Jeff Cole), a municipal bus driver, has been emotionally crushed by the unrelenting disapproval of his father, Ed (Stephen Mendillo). And Ed’s idea of coping with the family’s problems is to retreat to his basement workshop where he is constantly tinkering with projects. Elaine and Ed no longer sleep together.

Within this stupefying family dynamic Kemble inserts the jabbing concern of what to do about Phoebe who has been expelled from a funded social welfare work program because of her infatuation with a fellow worker, developmentally handicapped but physically imposing Willie Crum (Laurence Cohen). Ed and Todd are outraged that Willie is “fingering” Phoebe. Naturally, it is Elaine who recognizes the true worth of having Willie in Phoebe’s life.

Kemble finally offers Elaine an unwanted ally in her struggle for survival. An untimely death of a family member sets off a cathartic series of events that bring some level of resolution to life-long conflicts within the Kendall family. The creaky plot devise is welcome because it finally allows the individual family members exhibit some human attributes other than unmitigated self-absorbed need.

Within an ensemble of excellent portrayals, Mendillo’s Ed stands out as an embittered Viet Nam vet that is heartbroken because of what one son has become and what the other will never be. Also noteworthy is Gilad’s unbridled commitment to inhabiting Phoebe’s damaged psyche.

Kudos to the production designs of James Eric and Victoria Bellocq (sets), Leeann Johnson (costumes), J. Kent Inasy (lighting) and Marc Olevin (sound) for making tangible the claustrophobic physical environment of the Kendall family of Cranston, R.I.

Bad Hurt on Cedar Street

Greenway Court Theater, West Hollywood; 99 seats; $22 top

  • Production: A Greenway Arts Alliance presentation of a play in two acts by Mark Kemble. Directed by Salome Jens.
  • Crew: Sets, James Eric and Victoria Bellocq; costumes, Leann Johnson; lighting, J. Kent Inasy; sound, Mark Levin; production stage manager, Crystal M. Munson. Opened, reviewed Jan. 19, 2007. Runs through Feb. 24. Running time: 2 HOURS, 15 MIN.
  • Cast: Elaine Kendall - Lisa Richards Ed Kendall - Stephen Mendillo Todd - Jeff Cole Kent - Grant Sullivan Phoebe - Iris Gilad Willie Crum - Laurence Cohen