Hicks are on the rampage in David Bucci’s rambunctious Lynnwood Pharmacy, and I mean that in just about every sense imaginable. Johnny Hicks, a grinning, unkempt mess of a lad, is nearly shot by his rifle-toting mother on his first entrance, and there’s lechery, larceny, and mayhem afoot in Woolly Mammoth’s spoof from there on out. Also a genial slaughtering of the mother tongue.
“I love you like a knife in my heart,” says Mom on belatedly recognizing Johnny’s slouch, an endearment that sums up both this clan’s vision of togetherness and its approach to syntax. Dottie (Kerry Waters) is a woman who paints dogs on plates for a living (and who has collected a sort of trash menagerie of her work on one wall of her living room), which perhaps explains her fondness for vivid images. It’s harder to say how the rest of Bucci’s characters come by their linguistic pungency, but there’s no denying they’ve got a distinctive way with words.
Also with notions of self-worth. “Somewhere out there’s respect with my name on it, and I gotta dig it up,” says Johnny (Michael A. Stebbins) in agreeing to help his best buddy (Steve Hadnagy) rob a local drugstore. Never mind that Johnny will have to buy his disguise at the very store they’re planning to rob, or that his clairvoyant girlfriend (Simone Key) has lately been dreaming of pharmaceutical cataclysms, or that his mom would prefer that her son do his digging for respect in her garden. “A well-groomed yard is truly a sign of class,” she murmurs while pulling a bottle of Jack Daniels from her oven. Those drawbacks notwithstanding, the desire to “get the hell outta this hell” proves an irresistible incentive.
No doubt, Johnny’s wanderlust stems at least partly from watching his milquetoast dad (Harry A. Winter) hobble around the kitchen on two canes, struggling to land more tea and scrambled eggs on the table than on the floor. Being forced to listen to the lecherous ravings of his Uncle Rocco (Hugh Nees), who recently got his head stabbed in a barroom brawl, may also affect Johnny’s decision to escape his family. Still, as in less unconventional domestic chronicles, our young hero finds it’s tough to overcome the ol’ ties that blind.
Bucci appears to have crafted Lynnwood Pharmacy as a parody of traditional family sitcoms, setting himself an easier task than if he’d decided to mock, say, the traditional family itself, or conservative notions of family values. Still, as performed energetically by the Woollies, the evening is plenty amusing on its own terms. Imagine an episode of Roseanne scripted by Sam Shepard and you’ll have a rough idea of how it works.
Rick Fiori’s flamboyant staging encourages cast members to hurl themselves enthusiastically into each new confrontation, no matter what the outcome of the last one, and no one does so with more flair than Key, who very nearly turns Johnny’s clairvoyant girlfriend, Ellen, into a latter-day Joan of Arc. Whether fending off Uncle Rocco’s unwelcome attentions or feverishly recounting her dreams of the future, she’s adorably intense and ferociously practical. Waters makes the gun-toting Mrs. Hicks a savvier, more cynical embodiment of that same ethos, growling her lines with enough brisk authority that it’s understandable that the evening’s men quake in her presence.
Stebbins makes Johnny’s entire being seem an extension of a preternatural slouch and a goofy grin. His arms dangle loosely at his sides, his shoulders slump, and his long hair drifts forward to cover his face, as if his body is conspiring to keep him anonymous. Yet somehow he manages not to seem a visitor at his own party. As his marginally brighter, heist-planning buddy, Hadnagy is a nasal riot, turning formulaic witticisms (“She’s loony as a toon”) into comic haymakers. Nees makes Uncle Rocco at once pathetic and vaguely threatening, while Winter turns the family patriarch’s withered legs and awkward canes into a pretext for some truly marvelousand very messyshtick.
Other sure assets include a lighting plan by Marianne Meadows that ranges from naturalistic shadows to a deliciously hokey swirl effect for Ellen’s musings on the future, and Dawn Robyn Petrlik’s setting, which is middle-class cheezy right down to the grime on its wallpaper. CP