×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Thinner Than Water

"Thinner Than Water," seems custom-tailored for that thing they do at LAByrinth -- that anxious, angry, smartass, pissed-off-at-the-world attitude that more or less defines the house style.

With:
Renee - Elizabeth Canavan
Benjy - Stephen Ellis
Cassie - Lisa Joyce
Angela - Megan Mostyn-Brown
Gary - Alfredo Narciso
Gwen - Deirdre O'Connell
Henry - Aaron Roman Weiner
Mark - David Zayas

Melissa Ross’s first play, “Thinner Than Water,” seems custom-tailored for that thing they do at LAByrinth — that anxious, angry, smartass, pissed-off-at-the-world attitude that more or less defines the house style. That confrontational approach brings out the best (and the worst) in the squabbling siblings in this quirky family dramedy who turn on one another when they are summoned to the deathbed of their estranged father. A supremo cast makes neat work of Ross’s abrasive characters, while first-time helmer Mimi O’Donnell explores the black humor of the piece from every ironic angle.

Civilization might not be in need of yet another play about a dysfunctional family. But Ross writes in a drolly idiosyncratic idiom and her screwball characters are not the usual clichés. She also comes up with an interesting variation on the domestic-crisis formula: the person responsible for the individual grievances and collective angst of this twitchy family never appears on stage.

Martin, the old hell-raiser who fathered (by three separate wives) the three siblings in this piece, is in the hospital and already out of the picture when the play opens. This good-for-nothing rascal has been living with an adorably dotty woman named Gwen (Deirdre O’Connell, creating yet another warm and wonderful character to treasure) and has long lost touch with his unhappy and quarrelsome children. But the old man has passed on the legacy of his miserable parenting to every one of them.

Renee (a holy terror, in Elizabeth Canavan’s high-voltage perf) is the eldest child, married and the mother of two, but seething with the resentments of a lifetime. “I am the one you call in case of an emergency,” she rages, nailing the eternal dilemma of the eldest child whose responsibilities have become her burdens.

Her younger sister, Cassie (played with comic know-how by the gifted Lisa Joyce), is an emotional train wreck. Although so screwed up and utterly irresponsible that she can’t hang onto a decent job or a decent boyfriend, she’s still endearing in the manner of a naughty child.

Caught between his two half-sisters is Gary (a sweet slacker in Alfredo Narciso’s appealing perf), who clerks in a comic-book shop and lives in his mother’s garage. In a pathetic attempt to escape the bossy women in his life, the poor sap becomes a big brother to the only child of a single mother named Angela (a terrific in-your-face comic turn from Megan Mostyn-Brown) who proves to be the biggest ballbreaker of them all.

The main drawback of the play is that it has no plot to speak of. There’s not much in the way of action, either, beyond the characters’ awkward attempts to reach out to one another for warmth and comfort.

“A long time ago, I used to be nice,” Renee says, and being exposed to Gwen’s emotional honesty makes her want to be nice again. Gary’s persistent attempts at being a Big Brother and Cassie’s commitment to a relationship are more signs of positive change. But there’s no way that a change of heart can serve as plot, or personal growth pass for dramatic action.

Thinner Than Water

Cherry Pit; 90 seats; $25 top

Production: A LAByrinth Theater Company presentation of a play in two acts by Melissa Ross. Directed by Mimi O'Donnell.

Creative: Sets, Lee Savage; costumes, Bobby Frederick Tilley II; lighting, Japhy Weideman; sound, Jeremy J. Lee; production stage manager, Pamela Salling. Reviewed Feb. 12, 2011. Opened Feb. 15. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast: Renee - Elizabeth Canavan
Benjy - Stephen Ellis
Cassie - Lisa Joyce
Angela - Megan Mostyn-Brown
Gary - Alfredo Narciso
Gwen - Deirdre O'Connell
Henry - Aaron Roman Weiner
Mark - David Zayas

More Legit

  • Kiss Me Kate review

    Broadway Review: 'Kiss Me, Kate'

    No, Kate doesn’t get spanked. And for those wondering how the dicey ending of “Kiss Me, Kate” — that musical mashup of “The Taming of the Shrew” and backstage battling exes — would come across in these more sensitive times, well, that’s also been reconsidered for the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Broadway revival of the Cole [...]

  • Betrayal review Tom Hiddleston

    West End Review: Tom Hiddleston in 'Betrayal'

    It takes three to tango, and Jamie Lloyd’s “Betrayal” completely grasps that. Having made it his mission to modernize the way we stage Harold Pinter’s plays, his chic, stripped-down staging starring Tom Hiddleston as a cuckolded husband might be his best attempt yet. Pared back and played out on an empty stage, this masterful play [...]

  • Johnny Thompson

    Magician Johnny 'The Great Tomsoni' Thompson Dies at 84

    Johnny Thompson, also known as “The Great Tomsoni,” died in Las Vegas on March 9. He was 84. The showman was a versatile performer of music, magic, comedy, and drama throughout his decades long career. Thompson was born to Polish ancestry in Chicago in 1934. He began his career as a musician and musical arranger. [...]

  • The Devil Wears Prada

    'The Devil Wears Prada' Musical Taps Anna D. Shapiro to Direct

    Miranda Priestly can’t call all the shots. The upcoming musical adaptation of “The Devil Wears Prada” has tapped Anna D. Shapiro to direct the show, which is eyeing an eventual Broadway run. The story of an aspiring writer who works for the magazine editor from hell has previously been a best-selling book and a hit [...]

  • Hugh JackmanBrit Awards 2019 Arrivals, London,

    Hugh Jackman Starring in 'The Music Man' Revival on Broadway

    Hugh Jackman will return to Broadway in an upcoming revival of Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man.” It marks Jackman’s first musical role in more than a decade, which should make it a hot ticket. His last one, “The Boy From Oz,” resulted in a Tony Award for best actor. Jackman will play con man Harold [...]

  • Gareth Owen sound design

    Listen: The Secrets of Broadway Sound Design

    Sound design might be the most thankless job on Broadway — because when you get it right, nobody notices. Besides, a lot of theatergoers — and more than a few Tony voters — don’t quite know what it is. Listen to this week’s podcast below: Broadway and West End sound designer Gareth Owen (“Come From [...]

  • britney Spears Las Vegas Residency Planet

    Britney Spears-Themed Musical Coming to Broadway

    The songs of Britney Spears will be featured in “Once Upon a One More Time,” a musical comedy featuring 23 titles from the singer’s catalog, theater owner James L. Nederlander announced today. The show will have its premiere in fall at Broadway In Chicago’s James M. Nederlander Theatre before heading to Broadway. Previews begin  October 29, with an [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content