Reviewed by Chris Cassone
HUDSON MAINSTAGE THEATRE
6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, CA
Thru December 31, 2023
It's Friday before Thanksgiving as we walk into Hudson Theater's very comfortable room and look for our seats. The stage is lit in anticipation of "Lights Up," today's opening curtain. We are well teased as we are welcomed into a cozy California ranch with all the accoutrements: couch with throw pillows, a set dinner table, wine glasses at the ready, desert life out the window.
Along with the title, we know this much: this is the home of one of the two families who will engage our evening and all I can think of is that the holidays are right around the corner complete with that fun game of family dysfunction Olympics. Oh, your family doesn't have issues? Just remember the old adage, "80% of all families are dysfunctional, and the other 20%...are lying."
We are in the home of Seth and Harmony and their daughter, Rose, is having her boyfriend, Julio's, parents for dinner. Meet the parents. What could go wrong? To start, Seth and Harmony are crunchy granola holistic parents who refuse to allow guests to wear their germ-laden shoes in their home. Great start to meet Julio's folks, Elena and Max Gold, the film impresario who knows it all and gets his way wherever he goes. Take those shoes off, Max!
Max acquiesces for the sake of the evening and "the kids." But it doesn't take long before Seth irks Max too far and that creates the first of several blow-ups that threaten the evening.
The women seem to be the only level heads around as they coax their men into forgiveness and acceptance, two lessons both need to learn. And didn't I see a bit of myself in both men? For that is truly the proof of worthy drama, to identify with the hero's wins and losses, so that we can transcend our own Rubicons. And boy, did Max ever cross his. Arguing on several different levels simultaneously, Max and Seth spar about his parking on a dangerous curve out on their street, the family business he wants to start with Rose unbeknownst to dad Seth and Max's running roughshod through people's lives.
Seth is no angel either, in constant assumption that his whole earth way is the right way, but he was no match for Max.
Lindsay Merrithew as Max was bristling with ire and briming with braggadocio for most of the evening, an evening about their kids, remember.
His epiphany motivates the rest of the family into their own change. It was a real Hollywood ending but I so enjoyed it. I wanted him to "almost die" and come back to tell us what he learned.
Then one by one, the rest of the family, starting with Bruce Nozick's Seth, opens up and mends fences. He love
s his daughter so much he couldn't see that he was smothering her. Again, so like myself. I needed to see these changes, up close and personal, for I left the theater a better man for it.
Julie Pearl (Harmony) and Michelle Jasso (Elena) both carried the hearts of their families on their sleeves.
Pearl's lovable Mother Earth momma brought Seth back from the edge as she was the true loving backbone of the family all along. And the "Kids," both had to realize that their parents loved them while they were spreading their wings and leaving the nest - a hard pill to swallow for many parents and their adult children both well played by Alli Brown and Eric Stanton Betts.
Matt Chait covered a lot of psychological ground in only 100 minutes, and his characters were quick to be understood by us in the audience. He wasted no time in getting to the heart of the matter, how our own selfishness so easily gums up the family works. And more importantly, how a quick and honest inventory of our ills and a heartfelt amends is all the rest of the family needs to be able to move on with life. And move into that other 20%.
See "A Family Business" now. It will change you like it did me, just in time for the holidays.