The play moves swiftly, is performed without an intermission and is best seen cold, without any prior knowledge of what it’s about. I’ll tread carefully with the story: a young man named Marty Pascal (nicely played by John Williams) is bringing his girlfriend Lesly (an excellent Patty Lee Sylva) home to meet his family. What Lesly discovers and the audience learns immediately is that there’s something very…off about the Pascal family. Lesly sees a troubling quality in Marty’s naive, seemingly innocent younger brother Anthony (well played by Elisha Cullins). Marty’s mother (Jennifer Rose, a riot) seems to harbor ghastly secrets that she taunts Lesly with. Then there’s Marty’s sister (played by an unforgettable Hoku Pavao), who goes by “Jackie-O” and is obsessed with her brother. Lesly is initially the audience surrogate and we share her surprise at what she discovers. As the night wears on, the sanity of everyone present becomes questionable.
Pavao’s performance is initially very stylish, mining big laughs from her character’s uninhibited choice of words and forceful demeanor. As the play reveals its dark layers and Jackie-O becomes increasingly unhinged, Pavao’s turn becomes quite scary. There is a brief moment where Pavao charges to the front of the stage; it comes at a point where Jackie-O’s state of mind seems especially troubled. The commitment in Pavao’s acting made me wonder if she would end up diving into the audience. Here’s an example of a tour de force performance that is both disturbing and always entertaining to witness. There is a tragic center to Jackie-O and Pavao nails it.
Rose is wickedly funny as Mrs. Pascal, a batty matriarch who can barely contain herself from revealing all of her many secrets. Williams has some great moments with Pavao and conveys a man struggling to get out of twisted mindset he’s become accustomed to. Cullins has a tough role and he finds just the right note, hinting at the ways his character is both an overgrown child and an under-developed man. Sylva is exceptional, bringing layers and comic finesse to arguably the most sympathetic role. These performances carry the show, as each actor taps into the core truths of their characters.
Seeing “The House of Yes” at the Pro Arts Playhouse is an immersive experience, due in large part to the excellent production design. There’s a perfect blend of ambient sounds and a simulated rain storm that somehow comes across as subtle and unobtrusive. The sets by Caro Walker and Daniel Vickers are adorned with drapes, a lush sofa, Roman columns and an inviting bed, making the Pascal home appear awfully cozy. Special mention goes to the wonderful work of costumer Vicki Nelson, wig stylist Marc Tolliver (of Loft 145 Salon) and the striking Chanel suit by Peter Lee Couture. The look and feel of the show is just right.
With its sometimes explicit dialogue, mature subject matter and a few scenes of actors in states of undress, this one isn’t appropriate for children. On the other hand, adults with a fiendish sense of humor will eat this up. The opening night audience certainly did, as the hearty laughter was relentless and only occasionally halted by stunned silence.
Oxborrow’s productions of “The House of Yes” is hilarious and eerie, a human drama capable of eliciting both great laughter and enormous shock. It aggressively tickles the funny bone, chills you with its twists and turns and provides a night of theater that will stay with you long after the curtain call. There’s never been anything like it.
The House of Yes is at the Pro Arts Playhouse in Akeza Marketplace (next to Taco Bell). The show runs October 14-30th. Tickets are available at HouseOfYes.Yapsody.com or by calling 808-268-4650.