TOO MUCH SUN (Isis): The hilarity and horrors of a dysfunctional family

RJ Magee, Renee Richman-Weisband, and Arlen Hancock in Isis’s TOO MUCH SUN (Photo credit: Kristine DiGrigoli)

RJ Magee, Renee Richman-Weisband, and Arlen Hancock in Isis’s TOO MUCH SUN (Photo credit: Kristine DiGrigoli)

Dysfunctional families are playwright Nicky Silver’s forte, and his biting 2014 tragicomedy TOO MUCH SUN, presented by Isis Productions and directed by Neill Hartley, oscillates between the dark humor, absurdity, and devastating cruelty of familial love-hate (mostly hate!) relationships. Hilarity turns to horror and back again, as caustic comments fly, secrets are revealed, and lives are forever changed–or remain ridiculously stuck in the same old destructive patterns across generations. Filled with self-referencing jokes about the theater, Silver’s acerbic farce raises serious issues about the dynamics of damaged and damaging people, and the universal need for self-awareness and honesty.

Renee Richman-Weisband is Audrey, a self-centered, bankrupt, five-times married aging actress (“closer to the end than the beginning”) on the road doing regional theater. In rehearsal for Medea–the ancient Greek mythological enchantress who avenges her husband’s betrayal by killing their children–the type-cast Audrey (“a giant pain in the ass!”) storms out of rehearsal in Chicago after an hysterical diva rant, then shows up unannounced at the Cape Cod beach house of her estranged daughter Kitty. Played with dry wit and heartbreaking diffidence by Kirsten Quinn, the neglected daughter discloses that her mother sent her off to boarding school at a young age, kept her apart from her father, introduced a new stepfather every year she was in college, and even “sent an understudy to my graduation!”

Audrey’s toxic visit sets off a chain of disruptive events for Kitty, her detached husband Dennis (in an emotionally controlled performance by Rob Hargraves), gay pot-dealing neighbor Lucas (the excellent and compelling Arlen Hancock), Lucas’s widowed father Winston (Steve Gleich, whose demeanor easily changes from nervous flirtation to unbridled joie-de-vivre), and Audrey’s assistant agent Gil, who illogically aspires to be a rabbi (in a sidesplitting characterization with perfect comedic timing by RJ Magee).

Kirsten Quinn and Renee Richman-Weisband in Isis Productions’ TOO MUCH SUN (Photo credit: Kristine DiGrigoli)

Kirsten Quinn and Renee Richman-Weisband in Isis Productions’ TOO MUCH SUN (Photo credit: Kristine DiGrigoli)

Costumes by Bobby Fabulous define the emotionally-impaired personalities of Silver’s quirky characters, with laughably youthful attire for Audrey and frumpy ill-matched clothing for Kitty, and a scenic design by Hartley and Rick Miller evokes the ocean-side setting and their unstable footing on the rocky shifting sands of life.

[Walnut Street Theatre Studio 5, 825 Walnut St.] March 3-27, 2016; isisperforms.com.

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About the author

Debra Miller

Debra holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Delaware and teaches at Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ. She is a judge for the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent for Central Voice, and has served as a Commonwealth Speaker for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and President of the Board of Directors of Da Vinci Art Alliance. Her publications include articles, books, and catalogues on Renaissance, Baroque, American, Pre-Columbian, and Contemporary Art, and feature articles on the Philadelphia theater scene.