Kids today! They’re in their 20s and 30s and maybe even their 40s, bringing their failures home for some parental (and grandparental) coddling.
At least, that’s the way it is in To Grandmother’s House We Go by Joanna McClelland Glass, as presented by Group Rep, now playing at the company’s North Hollywood theater. The play dates to 1981 and is set around Thanksgiving of that year, yet feels eerily current. The three “kids” are just as anxious to return to the comforts of a family home as any 21st-century counterpart suffering from failure to launch.
Grandie, as her grandchildren call her, traces her family back to the Mayflower. She isn’t impressed by them—or by her daughter, their mother Harriet (Maria Kress). Grandie expresses her dissatisfaction in snarky ways that do nothing to prevent her descendants from begging her to let them live with her. Harriet, who also lives in the Connecticut house where they are gathering, has her own issues with launching and isn’t looking to bring her children back on any long-term basis.
The children are individually and collectively a mess. Muffy (Beccy Quinn) is going through a divorce and spends much of the play whining self-indulgently (but amusingly) on the sofa. Beatrice (Tessa Grace), an alcoholic, has lost custody of her children and communicates with them by mailed audio cassettes. Paul (Cecil Jennings), also divorced and based in Manhattan, and his California girlfriend Twyla (Raquel Brooks) want to move to Grandmother’s House the following summer, to start a local real estate business together.
Each actor brings the pathos and inspires an almost-parental mix of empathic and fed up.
Beautifully rounding out the eight-person cast are Lareen Faye as the decades-long family retainer Clementine and Jeffrey Winner as Grandie’s brother Jared. Both of course also live in Grandmother’s House. The younger generation expects the oldsters, especially Clementine, to cater to their needs and desires, not acknowledging that maybe it’s time for it to be the other way around. The ending is a satisfying resolution that won’t work for all families but sets things a little closer to right with this one.
Linda Alznauer directs the cast as if it were her own dysfunctional family; each is well-drawn and individualistic. Set design by Winfield/Emmett perfectly evokes a crumbling WASPY parlor.
To Grandmother’s House We Go plays through March 6 at the Group Rep’s Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd. For tickets, which are $30, click here.
About Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Neo Ensemble Theatre in Hollywood.
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