“The House of Yes” Redefines (ab)Normal, at Custom Made Theatre, S.F.

“The House of Yes” Redefines (ab)Normal, at Custom Made Theatre, S.F.

Wendy MacLeod Exposes Depravity in the Insular Elite

by Kevin Marley

Have you ever felt a little tension around the holiday table? Imagine that tension on steroids. Add a dash of betrayal. Include a bit of incest and stir. Now you have a picture of the twisted dysfunction and discord that churns in this dark comedy about an insular upper-class family, one stormy night in Washington, D.C.

As the hurricane approaches, multiple twisted personalities swirl about “The House of Yes,” as chaotic as the outside storm.

Casey Robbins and Caitlin Evenson, in “The House of Yes” – Photos by Jay Yamada

Sister Jackie-O (Caitlin Evenson) exclaims, “Normalcy courses through my veins!” with neurotic conviction. But she “doesn’t believe in the past tense” and appears unabashedly addicted to re-enacting the assassination of JFK. Smeared with Kennedy’s blood and brains as a sexual lubricant for her erotic fantasies, she carelessly indulges herself. Is Jackie-O insane—or, has she just never heard the word “No”?

As the older son, Marty Pascal (Casey Robbins) makes a pathetic grab for normalcy when he brings his fiancé home for a family Thanksgiving dinner. In a quick 75 minutes, Marty undergoes a transformation like a free-fall from a height—despite the fact that he starts low and ends lower. Is Marty a victim in all this depravity? We are left wondering. Although Marty’s little brother Anthony (Elliot Lieberman) bears guillotine marks from a childhood game, Anthony garners little sympathy with his gleeful depravity and macabre antics.

Casey Robbins, Caitlin Evenson, and Juliana Lustenader in “The House of Yes”

Mrs. Pascal (Shelley Lynn Johnson) on the other hand, charms us with her deadpan delivery of jewel-like witticisms that betray her parental incompetence. As the slovenly matriarch, Mrs. Pascal wanders upstairs and down, nonplussed by her brood’s depravity. Is she drunk or just deranged? Clearly, her nonstop commentary and criticism provide nothing helpful to her drowning children. Mrs. Pascal quips, “People don’t raise children, people raise cattle, children just happen.”

Marty’s fiancé Lesly (Juliana Lustenader), who comes from a poor mining family in Pennsylvania, asserts that Jackie-O is simply spoiled and, with one beguiling gaze, exposes the family’s insolent self-indulgence. Are these elite families victims of their own isolation, or are they a Trump-like menace to the nation? Hang on for a tumultuous ride at the “The House of Yes.” It’s delightfully disturbing.

Shelley Lynn Johnson and Juliana Lustenader in “The House of Yes”

“The House of Yes” by Wendy McLeod, directed by Stuart Bousel, by Custom Made Theatre Company, San Francisco, through Saturday, April 29, 2017. Info: custommade.org

Cast: Caitlin Evenson, Shelley Lynn Johnson, Elliot Lieberman, Juliana Lustenader, and Casey Robbins.

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