The House of Yes, playing at The Storefront Theatre, is the very definition of a “dark comedy”. Wendy MacLeod’s layered script and devious characters are brought to life by a cast committed to both parts of the genre, so much so, that even with the more taboo material I found myself laughing at the extremes presented on the stage.
Marty Pascal is bringing “a guest” home for Thanksgiving dinner to a house that doesn’t host guests. It takes only the initial presence of his Mother, his brother Anthony, and his twin sister Jacqueline, to understand why those on the outside should stay safely away from the house where “yes” is not just an answer but a way of life.
When it is revealed that Marty’s guest is his fiancé, Lesley, the hurricane surrounding the house becomes infinitely less severe than the storm brewing inside, specifically from Jacqueline for reasons that become more lurid as the story unfolds.
Joy Tanner excels as the laissez-faire matriarch, Mrs. Pascal, and when she says that people “raise cattle, children just happen” I feel it embodies the level of dysfunction that the Pascal clan has reached. It also calls to a reason why Marty left and how her children have grown to become the least they could ever hope to be.
Carter Hayden’s Marty has seemingly broken free from his family’s grip and Hayden plays his fall with such ease that it is only when he pleas with Lesley to take him back to their life that I realized how desperate Marty is for a “normal” life.
At one point the question is raised: Is Jacqueline insane or just entitled? Joanne Kelly plays the “Jackie-O” and Kennedy Assassination obsessed character with an energy that heavily leans to the former but, judging her upbringing, could suggest the latter.
Regardless of the impetus for her character’s condition, Kelly’s emotional and physical commitment to the performance was excellent and had me convinced the only boundary for Jacqueline is the edge of the ever-expanding universe as she is so off-balance the weight of the world couldn’t centre her.
Hayden and Kelly’s chemistry was tangible and while their scenes together are hard to take in from a morality level, they certainly don’t hold back when it comes to selling how deep the family secrets run.
There is an initial innocence to Jakob Ehman’s Anthony – that is only rivaled by Karen Knox’ Lesley – that I was skeptical when Anthony begins to seduce his brother’s fiancé. However, in reviewing his reaction to his siblings’ involvement with each other, I understood his deceit as nothing more than feeling left out of the family’s pit of despair. Ehman was wonderful at bringing the laughs that the surrounding darker scenes needed for their payoff.
Knox as Lesley begins as bright and hopeful and takes the biggest turn in terms of character, devolving to the level of those around her. It almost had me question if there was a mystical quality to “the house”. When it came time to sell this, Knox didn’t disappoint by standing her ground in the pit of insanity she found herself fighting to crawl out of it.
Like any good story, The House of Yes is a show that brings up questions and gives the audience something to consider upon leaving the theatre. The characters are so far away from anyone that could be considered normal, but this is needed for the impact of the story to be felt. The eclectic set, and genuine, diverse and, honest performances left me feeling thoroughly entertained.
- The House of Yes is playing until October 11th at The Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor Street West)
- Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm, and Sunday at 2pm
- Tickets are $25 and are available online, or at the venue
- Note: Mature themes.
Photo of Karen Knox and Carter Hayden by John Gundy.