Thursday, June 13, 2019

“Put Your House In Order” or Who’s That Knocking At Your Door?

When you find yourself laughing because you are nervous about what might happen next in Ike Holter’s new play, now in a world premiere production,  “Put Your House In Order” at the Mandell Weiss Forum semi circular space at The La Jolla Playhouse through June 30th, it may or may not be a good sign for what’s to come.  

Holter’s play takes place outside of Caroline’s family’s (Shannon Matesky) fashionable Craftsman’ home in the burbs of Chicago, (Evanston, to be exact). What looks like a peaceful setting turns out in the end to be somewhat of a war zone.

Shannon Mateskyand Behzad Dabu
Early on, subtle hints and sounds move into, over and above the staged arena. Whirling helicopter blades, sirens flashing and trash strewn in the spacious back yard of Caroline’s parents manicured lawns becomes an every day occurrence for the residents. Caroline's  huge supply of water bottles and juice boxes in a cooler on the lawn will ultimately become necessary to hoard.  

Space invaders? Illegal aliens? Government takeover? Intimidation?

Billed as a millennial rom-com meets apocalyptic thriller, yours truly found that those phrases were way past her grade level. As Joe Friday, the character in a long ago TV series, “Dragnet” so often said, ‘Just give me the facts”, Ma’am’.

It may be a stretch of the imagination to compare the “House” in Chicago with “The House” in DC where another horror story is taking place, but it did pop into my mind. Separating the facts from the noise is getting to be a challenge these days. There are children locked up in cages, parents separated from their children, and a wall, a wall and a wall separating one country from another, and I could go on.  Could this be happening to the folks in Evanston as well?

‘Go know’ as they used to say in my old Worcester, Mass. neighborhood.

Behzad and Shannon Matesky
Two good looking millennia’s Caroline and Rolan are on a first, second or third date (depending on whose story you buy) in the backyard of her luxurious home trying to get to know one another, trust one another and or possibly bed each other.

From the outset any one of those scenarios could play out.  But a funny thing happened on the way their getting to know each other. Romance turned to thriller, thriller turned to horror and God knows what else.   

Sooner rather than later, Caroline’s neighbor Josephine (an eery looking wild eyed Linda Libby) comes calling with bags of groceries for Caroline’s fridge. Josephine knows a bit about Caroline’s family. She also knows that her parents have been gone from the house for some time so she brings food from her fridge to theirs.  

She tells them that food on the outside is scarce, which Caroline already knew.  Something weird was happening. Josephine notices that Caroline and Rolan (a very cute Behzad Dabu) are pretty much in the middle of a challenge bolting the yard gate from allowing anything or anyone from coming in and possibly going out. News flash! All is not well outside the gates.

Lot’s of noise happens, panic overcomes the three after Josephine returns from a trip outside to visit her kids in the city. Returning, she looked like she came back from playing war games, and with an insatiable thirst… and wild stories.

Her bicycle was smashed (she used it as a weapon, says she) and she was almost delirious. To touch her, or not to touch her was the question for both Caroline and Rolan? We never know what her condition is but it doesn’t go away and it might possibly be contagious.

At this point in time, well into the play, trying to figure out what the hell was happening became a major theme that played out until play’s end. What was it? You be the judge. Who are the ‘they’ causing the unrest?  Don’t know!  You can, if you wish imagine the spookiest, the most destructive, the weirdest, and leave the rest to the imagination. Mine went there for a Nano –second and then I decided, no way. 

I’m comfortable with the scary of Hitchcock’s “The Birds” or “Psycho” or “North By Northwest”…you get the picture. At least I can bite my fingernails and know that soon it will be over. In Holter’s play, I went in knowing nothing and came out knowing even less, scratching my head trying to figure out what I had just seen. I was kind of hoping for the romance to get a bit more heated. But then again I am a romantic. I usually don't delve into the supernatural of the  first second or third encounter. 
Shannon Matesky and ?
No fault with the acting. It was intense, credible and age appropriate. Libby, Dabu and Matesky all convincing but I found Ms. Matesky’s speech patterns difficult to follow. Lili-Anne Brown’s direction manages to weave both suspense and horror throughout. The fear factor was much more convincing than the romance. Sigh!

The set, what I could see of it from my vantage point looked (Arnel Sancianco) great. The loud and original music and sound effects (Victoria Deiorio) might serve well those with head -sets blaring in their ears all day as in the young millennial who might already have hearing loss, I found it too loud.

The lighting with flashing red lights (Amanda Zieve) drove me to distraction and some projections seen on the set at the opening were out of my sight lines, so no comment.  

The buzz after the show was most interesting, comparing shows like The ‘Walking Dead’, Zombies, and Aliens ‘from out of space’, “Invasion of The Body Snatchers”, or “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind” to this latest incarnation of horror, but my limited knowledge kept me out of the conversation.

I moved on to a safer place well out of Caroline’s ‘neighborhood’s firing line. I went to the Gelato line.

Playwright Holler and this new ‘thriller’ of his, leaves much to be desired with too little information and not enough fear factor to cover one’s eyes, However if you are so inclined, do drop in, and give it a try.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through June 30th
Organization: The La Jolla Playhouse
Phone: 858-560-1010
Production Type: Romance Thriller
Where: 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla CA,
Ticket Prices: Start at $39.00
Venue: Mandell Weiss Forum
Photo: Jim Carmody


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