The choice between one’s insane wife of 20 years and one’s star-struck girlfriend who withholds her divine cooking skills and instead provides sexual intimacy is an extremely complicated one. Artie Shaughnessy (Mike Gibson) certainly knew the difficulties of such a decision as he and his family endured the visit of the Pope and the chaos that resulted. McLean High School presented John Guare’s “The House of Blue Leaves” with a style that emphasized nicely the dark humor of the script.
This show centers on a family of Irish Catholics living in Queens, New York, 1965. Despite his wife, Bananas’ (Malka Roth), lack of mental stability, Artie Shaugnessey still lives with her, at the same time enjoying intimacy with but not the cooking of his girlfriend, Bunny Flingus (Gen Blau). The story culminates in an explosion meant for the Pope by son, Ronnie Shaugnessey (Dan Lee).
The cast entertained with a strong energy that lasted throughout the chaotic day portrayed. Their accents were strong and constant, and though at times they competed with diction, they certainly added to the characterization. Their chemistry was also continuous, not only in their interactions with each other, but in their interactions with their environment, always staying in character.
Gibson portrayed Artie’s frustrations at his situation clearly, while showing still a quiet affection for his afflicted wife. Bunny endured her boyfriend’s crazy spouse with a short temper and a delicious accent, while Roth gave Bananas’ hidden demons a dark comedic edge.
Other characters include a trio of reluctant nuns and a postulate who invade the Shaugnessey home to watch the Pope on television. The Little Nun (Rebecca Menzer) sparkled as she converted from a “young bride of Christ to a young divorcee.” Julia Vans was very convincing as the deaf actress, Corrinna Stroller, as she delivered a very detailed performance of a young woman trying not to appear disabled.
The set, designed by Aaron Wolfe, Melody Ain, Gen Blau, Jane Kadyszewski, and Matt Schnall, was extraordinarily intricate, realistic and truly engaging. Schnall’s lighting was accurate and effective, illuminating mood changes with distinction and careful attention to detail, such as the changing daylight behind the fire escape.
McLean High School’s production of “The House of Blue Leaves” served its dark humor well as it entertained while inspiring reflection on love and life and choices. In the words of Bunny Flingus, this show certainly wasn’t “for nix.”
• Sara Danver is a student at T.C. Williams and a member of the Cappies: The Critics and Award Program for High School Theater.