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An eerily serious treatment of domestic violence by Paula Vogel

Wednesday, Oct 18 2000
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The play sounds like a porno spoof or some schlocky thing with naked men at Theater Rhino, but it happens to be an eerily serious treatment of domestic violence by Paula Vogel. She likes broad cultural farce with serious undertones (The Minneola Twins, How I Learned to Drive), so the violent and sexed-up sitcom she's created here should surprise no one. But it's still shocking. The mother, Charlene, writes pulp scripts for erotica aimed at women -- "not pornography!" -- and the teenage daughter, Leslie Ann, is in heat. The son, Calvin, masturbates into his baseball glove; the absent father, Clyde, is a drunk, unemployed bum who chafes like a harnessed mustang under his wife's restraining order. When he shows up anyway, bursting through the door on a Friday night, with Leslie Ann off at a slumber party and Calvin out wandering, Charlene shoots him in the ass. Then things start to slide downhill. Vogel frames the action with a suburban patio door, flanked by a stripper and a banned-literature-quoting DJ. The cartoonish exaggeration of lust and violence in the average family is funny until Leslie Ann lets out a certain secret at the slumber party and Clyde starts to lose control. Susannah Martin directs her cast tightly: Don Wood makes you feel almost sorry for Clyde, and Laconia Koerner does an excellent girlish Leslie Ann. Not all of the show rises above its caricature style, but Vogel has a talent for making her scripts matter just in time.

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