Sometimes it really is all about play choice. Having presented solid productions of This Is Our Youth and The Aliens, Vancouver indie theatre company Sticks and Stones Theatre fails to make a sale with a rather tepid production of Will Eno’s The Open House.
While the many similar plays which have come before The Open House use the same dark humour and heightened familial dynamic to expose the underbelly of the nuclear family, they all come with a cast of characters we can at least relate, and at their best, care about. The Open House offers us neither.
Instead, the first half lacks the impact of plays like the recent and superior Hir, and even when Eno attempts to turn the genre on its head in its second-half (no spoilers here), it is equally as unsatisfying as its first.
Eno exasperates further by making so little effort in allowing his characters to become flesh-and-blood; it is all becomes caricature, and an effort in style that leaves its audience on the sidelines.
Despite its problems, punctuated by four audience members making very visible exits during the Saturday performance we attended, there are some nice performances.
Particularly good here is Anita Wittenberg who makes the most of her role as Mother, and surprises even more in the second half. Melissa Oei also shines, especially in an almost unrecognizable transformation.
The smartest character in The Open House may very well be the household pet, which very early-on escapes the family at the centre of this non sequitur-fueled dark comedy. Given the audience reaction when it eventually returns at the end, it was also the only character we really cared about.
The Open House by Will Eno. Directed by Alan Brodie. A Sticks and Stones Theatre production. On stage at the Havana Theatre (1212 Commercial Dr, Vancouver) until January 26. Visit sticksandstonestheatre.com for tickets and information.