Driven by fine performances and all too embarrassingly familiar family dynamics, "Family Only" playing at Theatre West, is a very real and a very clever take on a family party…without the fun.
It all takes place in Will and Nicky’s backyard. They invite their family over to celebrate their new home, their first home in fact, only to be told in no uncertain terms by Will’s father Walter that they are showing off. Walter, on his third marriage, is an unsuccessful salesman, always looking for the next get rich quick scheme and Will’s relationship with him is what really sets the tone for the entire play.
Add Will’s half sister Andrea, a divorcee with an out-of-control eigh year old, no job, and no desire to get one, a grandmother who’s fed up with being the family bank, Walter’s wife Brenda who’s determined to make the best of everything, and the long suffering Nicky who’s met her limit of sweetness, and you have all the makings of a classic family comedy.
Riley Rae Baker (l.), Anne Leyden, Sheila Shaw
Theatre West is always the best source for new plays in the area, and "Family Only" is another world premiere from them. The writer Darryl Vinyard has created some wonderful characters, and this group of actors rather spectacularly seem to have made them their own.
The director Arden Teresa Lewis has managed to take a play that could have been set in a living room but transported us to the back patio of a California house, complete with pool and sliding doors and slightly worn siding, creating such a totally relatable space for us Southern Californians that I have felt I could reach into the cooler and grab a beer.
Family strife is a theme that is played with a lot, so it’s always interesting to me when I see a play that brings something new to it. "Family Only" does just that. Without fuss, without contrivance, and without drama really. it just feels so real. Maybe that says more about my family than I would like to admit!!
The performances were up to Theatre West’s very high standards of course, and I particularly enjoyed how well they fit together. You really had a sense of who they were, and who they wanted to be seen to be. This family seemed real, dysfunctional, messy, loud and broken, but beautifully real. Together, the cast, writer and director have perfectly created a truly believable and memorable family, warts, baggage and all.
If you have a family, or even just a couple of relatives that you just can never seem to please let alone impress or make proud, this play will hit a nerve, or more probably a funny bone.
I highly recommend "Family Only" at Theatre West.
The play runs from February 10th through March 19th.
Written by Darryl Vinyard
Directed by Arden Teresa Lewis
Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd, CA90068
Riley Rae Baker • Roger Kent Cruz • Frank Gangarossa • Anne Leyden • Sheila Shaw • Dianne Travis
Directed by Arden Teresa Lewis
Produced by Benjamin Scuglia
Set design by Jeff G. Rack
Lighting design by Yancey Dunham
Costume design by Arden Teresa Lewis
Sound design by Paolo Greco
Stage manager: Leesa Freed
Production photography by Garry Michael Kluger
Publicist: Phil Sokoloff
Assistant stage manager: Victoria Baker
Theatre West Executive Director: John Gallogly