By Jean Cocteau
Translated by Jeremy Sams
Directed by John Mossman
At The Artistic Home, Chicago
Extreme physical comedy fuels a hilarious French farce
Director John Mossman sure gets his game cast of five to exude every ounce of comedy from Jean Cocteau’s 1938 French farce, Les Parents Terribles. We meet the ultimate tangled and twisted dysfunctional family that finds the father, George (Frank Nall) a wacky inventor; his wife Yvonne (Kathy Scambiatterra) the hyper-excessive mother who clings to her son, Michael (Julian Hester) in a passionately unnatural way. But Michael is in love with Madeleine (Allie Long) who also has an affair going with George. Aunt Leo (Miranda Zola), who has been in love with George for decades, live in the household is the only one present with a sense of order.
When Michael comes home from a night out, Yvonne is whacked out with worry and goes crazy when he tells her that he is in love. She still sees the twenty-two year old as ‘her little boy.’ She tries all the tricks open to a mother: guilt, guilt and more guilt. Scambiatterra sets the manic tone with a wild physical and vocal hysteria that got me tired from laughing. Throughout the three act comedy, each of the characters get their moment (or two) of wildly excited loud and physical comic moments. But Kathy Scambiattera and newbie Julian Hester lead the way in manic humor. Both were hilarious leaving it all on Corine Bass’ terrific set.
Jean Cocteau’s comedy, in a fine translation by Jeremy Sams, cleverly complicates things by having Madeleine’s two lovers, the old man and the young guy be father and son. Once George learns that his mistress is his son’s lover he feels betrayed and conflicted. Once Yvonne learns that, she plots to save Michael from the girl. But Aunt Leo is determined to help Michael be happy while possibly getting her lifelong desire.
The action produces many funny moments as the quick-pace and outstanding comic timing by this fabulous ensemble (the finest comic ensemble work seen on a Chicago stage in years!) is anchored by Scambiattera and Hester’s brave work. Frank Nall comes through with expert timing that making for rich laughs in act two and three. But Miranda Zola took a straight-laced Aunt Leo and made it a pivotal role that fuels much of the action. Her subtle comments also get hearty laughs despite her non-physical demeanor.
Les Parents Terribles is two hours and fifteen minutes of fabulous comic acting that delivers so many laughs that I left the theatre worn out from laughing! Director John Mossman sure got his ensemble to play the work as a farce going for the laughs over the social comments. The humor puts an exclamation point on Cocteau’s themes. You’ll laugh as you appreciate fearless physical and verbally dexterity comic acting by the entire cast. A funny comedy is just the cure for this never ending winter. A trip to Grand and Noble to The Artistic Home is the cure for the winter blues. Don’t miss this show. Local young thespians need to see this show to learn how to really do comic acting.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: March 2, 2014
For more info checkout the Les Parents Terribles page at theatreinchicago.com
At The Artistic Home, 1376 W. Grand, Chicago, IL