Directed by Jason Boat
Produced by Mortar Theatre Company
At the Athenaeum Theatre Chicago
Promising new work marred by over acting and speechifying
In their first season in Chicago, Mortar Theatre Company has offered another world premiere play, Inherit the Whole by Dana Lynn Formby. Inherit is an ambitious work about how a dysfunctional family deals with their dreams- whether shattered or alive.
Set in a Colorado mountain cabin (set design by Eric Broadwater) in 1984, we meet Doug (Derek Garza), a Vietnam vet who sits alone in his cabin seeking peace from the world. His brothers pay him a visit as each want a share in the cabin left to the family by their recently departed (by suicide) father. Doug was in the cabin when his father swallowed a shotgun.
The estranged brothers led by the wound-too-tight Paul (Christopher Jon Martin) and his doting wife Lisa (Stephanie Stroud) visit in search of the rumored gold chest that their dad was thought to have buried under the cabin. Paul is a dreamer searching for wealth. He has tried all kinds of schemes and now wants to invest in a new company called “Microsoft” – a new stock offering in 1984. Lisa is the battered wife and enabler who both loves and fears Paul.
Paul and Doug argue from the start; Doug threatens Paul with a rifle. Enter Jake (Jon Penick) and his conniving wife Kaiann (Sara Tode). Doug is now besieged with threats to sell the cabin and split the money with his cash-strapped brothers unless they all work together to dig for the chest containing gold rumored to hidden under the cabin by their dad. Doug finally decides to help Paul and Jake dig in order to satisfy them that there is no gold giving them reason to leave him in peace. Complications presented my Kaiann threaten Doug’s homestead.
While there is promise here in Dana Lynn Formby’s play, it has hints of Lanford Wilson and Tracy Letts in the emotionally charged family dynamics, it develops too slowly with all the early speechifying monologues. Two brothers in a heated argument don’t stay quiet while one rants on in a wordy monologue. Next, director Jason Boat needs to tame down the over acting from Christopher Jon Martin who plays Paul almost as a raving lunatic from the go. His continuous screaming wears thin. Act one needs a trim and a quicker pace. Inherit takes too long to get the action going.Yet the character development is effective.
Act two finds all the characters ‘spending’ their loot before the diggers find the chest. Doug says that they are “drowning in hope.” Doug’s motivation lingers from compliance with the search to defiance and back again. I’m not too sure I buy his mood shifts? The resolution is predictable yet plausible. Emotions run high in this powerful drama of desperation and dreaming. It is worth seeing if the producers stop turning off the air conditioning that rendered the space into an oven.
At the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, Chicago, IL, tickets $20, senior/student/veterans discounts, running time is 2 hours with intermission.