The Heart In Randy's House 11/27/2002
Fine acting and direction make Randy's House well worth seeing.
Thursday, November 28, 2002
Photo: House Afire: Mary Ann Schaupp and Robert Colter shine in Randy''s House.
Every generation of Americans has to come to terms with its prejudices. Whether or not a society can learn tolerance and acceptance, it has long been considered the province of art to ask us to try. Unicorn Theatre is to be applauded for doing just this with Randy''s House.
Randy''s House, though a flawed play, is well worth seeing for its excellent direction and acting and for the importance of its message of tolerance and inclusiveness. It is the story of the conflict between an Atlanta suburban community and the gay couple who has recently moved in. The couple, a doctor and a professor, attend a town council meeting during which a resolution cancelling all funding for "homosexual art" is passed. This is followed by a second resolution declaring that the "homosexual lifestyle" is not compatible with the values of the community. When the professor stands up to invite anyone in the town to spend an evening with his family, the trouble begins.
Had playwright John M. Clum focused on this conflict, the play might have been very strong indeed. Unfortunately, he seems to feel that this single conflict isn''t enough. He interlards the mix with characters that would make Tennessee Williams''s Big Daddy envious, introducing themes from "Deliverance," "Mississippi Burning," and "The Boys of St. Vincent." Randy''s House finally feels overcrowded.
Director Ralph Senensky, however, does what he can to find the strength of the play. In the hands of a less skilled director, the show could have become all bombast. Senensky chooses to downplay the moments of greatest conflict, creating an almost eerie stillness. There seems to be a hush on all the characters, as if they are fighting for a surface sense of gentility in the heat of this less than genteel battle. The contrast between tone and words is very effective.
Senensky also brings out the best in his very able cast. Mary Ann Schaupp turns in a riveting, subtle performance as the self-proclaimed "Wicked Witch of the West." In her hands, a somewhat two-dimensional character becomes complex and believable. Fans of fine acting would do well to see the show for her performance alone.
Jack Stauffer as Sam, the professor newly moved to the community, is another stand-out. He is simple, honest and real in his role. In a quiet moment in the midst of the crisis, Sam tells his partner, Rick, how deeply he loves him. Stauffer plays the scene with such warmth that the audience is allowed to feel the point: Isn''t it more important that we have love in our lives than which gender we are attracted to?
Robert Colter as Hunter, Schaupp''s beleaguered husband, is wonderfully truthful, passionate, and sparkling clear in his characterization. Ben Jones as Rick, Sam''s partner, is acid, witty, powerful and touching. He is especially moving when he appreciates the first goodnight peck-on-the-cheek his stepson has ever given him.
Timothy Thompson as Sam''s son Taylor is a promising young actor with strength and presence. Andrew Wright as the gay son of the town''s leading couple, though a good look for his part, delivered such a robotic performance that it was difficult to feel for him. Terry Durney has the unenviable job of playing the town''s good-ole-boy bigot, a character with the complexity of a Saltine. Still, he brings such energy and commitment to the role he is able to fool us, if only for a short time.