Watchful ghosts, sinister hustlers and diabolical demons – acclaimed playwright Tom Jacobson”™s subversive Southern Gothic romance House of the Rising Son combines supernatural elements with science in its examination of issues of family, gay marriage and equality.
Review by Pauline Adamek
But with its graphic language and unabashed presentation of taboo behavior, House of the Rising Son is a genuinely shocking and distasteful play that is not recommended for all audiences.
At the Natural History Museum, where he is a staff fundraiser, Felix (Steve Coombs) is attentively watching Dr. Trent Varro (Paul Witten) deliver a lecture about the grisly habits of parasitic creatures. Watching but not listening”¦ We can hear the young man”™s lascivious thoughts as he brazenly plays with himself through his pants. We can also hear Dr. Trent”™s perplexed thoughts about the beguiling young man interspersed with his lecture as he struggles to maintain composure and hide his own arousal.
Their instant attraction is mutual, leading to a heady first date of scampering about graveyards and hot sex in an empty grave. As Felix opines, “Gay people have a shamanistic role in our society, so if anyone should see a ghost, it”™s us.”
Impulsively (and implausibly) Dr. Varro immediately whisks his new young lover home to New Orleans to meet his wealthy family and offer Felix the opportunity to further explore his passion in a haunted town where tales of ghosts are part of its rich history. There, Felix is confronted by Trent”™s cantankerous grandfather”™s vocal disdain for his grandson”™s openly gay lifestyle. Played by Rod Menzies, the grandfather unleashes a disgusting homophobic tirade that actually conceals his true sentiments. In spite of this off-putting “˜welcome”™, the abandoned and lonely Felix still seems to be intrigued by the possibility of stepping into the very family environment that he craves – that is until the young ghost hunter learns a bit more about this Southern family and their skeletons. Patrick John Hurley also co-stars as Trent”™s father.
Directed by Michael Michetti, House of the Rising Son is well acted by all four players, who also double up with minor roles. Staged in the round, the finest element of this play is the stunning set by designer Richard Hoover, is a wild combination of low brick walls and dilapidated mansion interior elements, layered with Persian carpets. Random items such as antique portraits, ramshackle dining chairs and even an old double bed are suspended amongst broken crystal chandeliers, suggesting heritage, ancestry and decay.
Tom Jacobson”™s seditious Gothic romance holds rewards for those who can get past the off-putting language and, at times, extreme subject matter.
What do the first race riot in Los Angeles and gay life in steamy New Orleans have in common? Each is the subject of a new play by Tom Jacobson, one of Los Angeles”™ most acclaimed and prolific playwrights. Circle X Theatre Co. presents Jacobson”™s The Chinese Massacre (Annotated), directed by Jeff Liu, opening April 22, and Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA presents House of the Rising Son, directed by Michael Michetti, opening April 23, both playing at the new Atwater Village Theatre where the two companies offer a joint season in 2011.
House of the Rising Son
Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA @ Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave,
Atwater Village, CAÂ 90039
Runs now through May 29th, 2011.
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm
Sundays at 2 pm
Approx 2 & Â½ hours, including a 10 minute intermission.
Pay-what-you-can tickets are available on Thursday, May 5th when purchased at the door (subject to availability).
For reservations and information, call (323) 644-1929 or go here.