The Pain and the Itch at The Zephyr Theatre

Sep 23, 2013
The Pain and the Itch

Worst. Thanksgiving. Ever. A family gathering to celebrate the iconic American holiday turns into a scathing indictment of phony liberal values in The Pain and the Itch by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Bruce Norris (Clybourne Park), opening Oct. 26 at the Zephyr Theatre.

Director Jennifer Chambers sets the revival of this outrageous, irreverent and subversively funny satire about the politics of class and race in the Pacific Palisades - the land of palm trees, ocean views and resplendent neighborhoods.

Eric Hunnicutt (improv ensemble The Reckoning) and Beverly Hynds (Circle X, Sacred Fools, A 99-Cent Wonderama with Ken Roht) star as Clay and Kelly, who, with their perfect house and two perfect children, seem to have it all. That is, until Clay's mother, Carol, a self-proclaimed socialist (April Adams - Off Broadway's The Rimers of Eldritch, The Shadowbox); his staunch Republican brother, Cash (Trent Dawson - 12 years as Henry Coleman in As the World Turns, Dead Man's Cell Phone at ICT); and Cash's young Eastern European girlfriend Kalina (Beth Triffon - national tour of Peter Pan) arrive for Thanksgiving dinner.

With four-year-old Kayla (Ava Bianchi/Kiara Lisette Gamboa) in serious need of attention and a ravenous creature possibly prowling the upstairs bedrooms, what begins as an average Thanksgiving for this privileged family devolves into absolute chaos - the repercussions of which resonate so far and wide that they profoundly change the life of a total stranger (Joe Holt - We Are Proud to Present at the Matrix, Macbeth at Antaeus).

Wickedly funny and deeply insightful, this contemporary examination of American ideals is as shocking as it is socially relevant.

"The great thing about Bruce Norris' plays is that they deal with both the personal and the political," says Chambers. "The situations he creates are tense and troubling, but also hilarious and true. He turns our perceptions completely upside down."

Chambers, who has two children of her own, continues, "On the surface, Clay and Kelly seem like unlikeable people, but I also relate to how hard they're trying to be good parents. When our children are born they seem so pure that we will go to any lengths to protect that innocence. These are not made up people. Norris heightens the situation and makes it extreme, but he keeps the undercurrent very real, which is what makes it so frightening and so funny."

The Pain and the Itch premiered at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, which Norris has called his artistic home, then played Off Broadway at Playwright's Horizons.

Bruce Norris is best known for his play Clybourne Park, which won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play and the 2010 Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for Best Play in London. He has on ongoing collaboration with Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, where his plays A Parallelogram, The Unmentionables, The Pain and the Itch, We All Went Down to Amsterdam, The Infidel and Purple Heart were commissioned and produced. The Low Road recently premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London, Domesticated is set to open in New York at Lincoln Center this fall (with Jeff Goldblum and Laurie Metcalfe), and the world premiere of The Qualms has been announced for Steppenwolf's 2103-14 season. Norris' work has also been seen at Playwrights Horizons, Lookingglass Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Staatstheater Mainz (Germany) and The Galway Festival (Germany).

Jennifer Chambers directing credits include Complete at the Matrix Theatre; Play Dates at the Asylum Theatre (L.A. Times "Critic's Choice"); the world premiere of Stephen Belber's The Muscles in Our Toes at the El Portal; Yog Sothoth, The Third Best Debater and Here to Serve You at San Pedro's Little Fish Theatre; and Suzan Lori Park's 365 Play/365 Days at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. She has assisted Jonathan Moscone on Cal Shakespeare's production of Man and Superman and Liz Diamond on Catherine Treischman's Crooked at the Women's Project Theatre. She was the assistant director of the Piedmont Children's Theatre and has directed autobiographical theater pieces at the Living Arts Center in Berkeley, California. She is a professional actress who has performed on Broadway, has numerous regional credits, and has written and performed two autobiographical solo pieces, Choices at the Marsh Theatre and Mine at the California Institute of Integral Studies. She has an undergraduate degree in theater arts from Northwestern University and a master's degree in counseling psychology with a concentration in drama therapy from The California Institute of Integral Studies.

Set design for The Pain and the Itch is by Joel Daavid; lighting design is by Ric Zimmerman; costume design is by Sharell Martin; sound design is by Joseph "Sloe" Slawinski; production stage manager is Amy Francis Schott; and Racquel Lehrman, Theatre Planners produces.