Even for twins, Jackie and Marty seem a little close in Wendy MacLeod’s The House of Yes.
How close is a little close?
“Jackie’s hand was holding Marty’s penis when they came out of the womb,” says their devoted mom.
So when Marty (Jason Stiles) brings home a guest for Thanksgiving and introduces her as his fiancée, the rest of the family barely reacts when Jackie (Sara Barker), who likes to be called Jackie-O because of an obsession with the Kennedys, lets out a screech of the sort usually reserved for horror films. Jackie’s a little uppity is all, and she’s not been back long from the asylum. Not to worry, let’s just get rooms sorted out for the weekend.
To her credit, Marty’s fiancée, Lesly (elisha efua bartels), goes along gamely, even when Marty’s younger brother Anthony (Jay Hardee) starts hitting on her. Mom (Wendy Wilmer), meanwhile, makes it clear that she’d prefer that Lesly skedaddle and leave the twins to their own devices, even though a hurricane (nicely realized in Matt Otto’s sound design) is raging outside. Those devices include sex games as well as games of a rather more ornately outré sort, including in-costume re-enactments of a bit of Zapruder film. Not for nothing has MacLeod subtitled The House of Yes “A Suburban Jacobean Play.”
Audiences have been at once delighted and baffled by this family dysfunction melodramedy since MacLeod wrote it in 1990 (a screen version with Parker Posey as Jackie premiered in 1997), and that mix of reactions is likely to greet Colin Hovde’s persuasive, though unremarkable, mounting for Washington Shakespeare Company. The cast is adept. Stiles is particularly fine as a guy who’s never known normality, and so yearns for it, even as he’s drawn to the taboo. Except for that screech at the outset, Barker keeps Jackie’s rising hysteria from becoming shrill, and bartels is attractive as the only sane person on the premises. Hovde doesn’t push for laughs but gets plenty in the early going. And after that, the play doesn’t deliver them, but, well, lurid can be its own reward.