The House of Yes at Zephyr Theatre
Love, incest, mental illness and murder. Zephyr producing artistic director Lee Sankowich directs a 25th anniversary revival of the wickedly entertaining, exceedingly black comedy by Wendy MacLeod that became a cult classic indie film - and still lives up to its hype. The House of Yes opens May 9 at the Zephyr Theatre for a six-week run through June 14. As a violent hurricane swirls outside the Pascal's Kennedy estate-adjacent home in McLean, VA, the storm of the century - brewing ever since JFK's assassination 20 years earlier - is about to erupt inside. Mrs. Pascal (Eileen T'Kaye), daughter Jackie-O (Kate Maher) and younger son Anthony (Nicholas McDonald) are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Jackie's twin brother for Thanksgiving. But when Marty (Colin McGurk) brings along his new fiancee (Jeanne Syquia), secrets unravel and the family's elegant veneer begins to crack. The Pascals are an unabashedly self-centered lot, stricken with Kennedy envy, dwindling resources and a fondness for guns.
Lesly has breached their bizarre household; they respond with sex and violence, even as they struggle for impossible normalcy. "I think we have this fascination with public violence, and a sexual attraction to Jackie and Jack," MacLeod stated in an interview. "What happened in the country after the assassination - that loss of innocence - is like what happened to these characters. They were a normal upper-class family till the day the father left. Then everything went terribly wrong." "This is exactly the kind of play I love to direct," says Sankowich. "Everyone has a secret, and the audience can't put its finger on the truth right away. It's funny, shocking, twisted and highly theatrical." The House of Yes premiered at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, then played Los Angeles' Las Palmas Theater in 1990. In 1995, it opened at New York's SoHo Rep with Allison Janney as Mrs. Pascal, prompting Ben Brantley to write in The New York Times, "Incest inspired by images of assassination is, as far as I know, an entirely new kink in absurdist comedies about dysfunctional families... a warped Freudian Gothic." In 1995, the play was made into a Miramax film starring Parker Posey that earned a Special Jury Award at Sundance, and it remains a cult favorite to this day. Wendy MacLeod's other plays include The Water Children, which premiered at New York's Playwright's Horizons, then received a production at L.A.'s Matrix Theatre that the LA Weekly called "the most challenging political play of 1998," and which earned six Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle nominations.
Things Being What They Are has been done at Seattle Rep, Steppenwolf (where its sold-out run was extended twice) and Bay Street Theater, and it will open this spring at the Road Theatre in L.A. Her play Juvenilia premiered at Playwrights Horizons. Both Sin and Schoolgirl Figure premiered at the Goodman in Chicago, and Schoolgirl Figure was optioned by HBO and Anvil Entertainment for film. Her newest play, Women in Jeopardy!, just completed its run at Geva in Rochester, NY. Macleod's prose has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, The Washington Post, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, The Rumpus, International Herald Tribune, POETRY magazine, The Dramatist, the Kenyon Alumni Bulletin and on All Things Considered. A New Dramatist alumna and a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, she is the James E. Michael playwright-in-residence at Kenyon College and has been a guest professor at Northwestern University's film and theater departments. Lee Sankowich's directing career got its jump start with successful productions of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which ran for two-and-a-half years in New York, five-and-a-half years in San Francisco and a year-and-a-half in Boston. In total, he has directed 11 productions of the play. Since then, Sankowich has worked in regional theaters across the country including Baltimore Center Stage, the Mark Taper Forum, South Coast Rep, Florida Stage, Geva, Jewish Repertory Theatre, City Theatre, Theatreworks and Pittsburgh Public Theatre, where he was a resident director while also serving as associate professor of drama at Carnegie Mellon University. More recently, Lee spent 16 years as artistic director of the Marin Theatre Company where he directed 45 plays, including two Estate-sanctioned world premieres of previously unproduced works by Tennessee Williams. The recipient of four San Francisco Bay Area Drama Critics Awards for Direction, Lee currently owns and is producing artistic director of the Zephyr Theatre.
Set design for The House of Yes is by Adam Haas Hunter; lighting design is by Rebecca Raines; sound design is by Norman Kern; costume design is by Wendell C. Carmichael; props design is by Natalya Zernitskaya; graphic design is by Kiff Scholl, AfK Design; and casting is by Michael Donovan, CSA. Lee Sankowich and Margie Mintz produce for the Zephyr Theatre. The House of Yes opens on Saturday, May 9, continuing through June 14 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Two low-priced preview performances take place on Thursday, May 7 and Friday, May 8, each at 8 p.m. General admission is $25, except previews which are $15. The Zephyr Theatre is located at 7456 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046 (between Fairfax and La Brea). For reservations and information, call (323) 960-5563 or go to www.plays411.com/houseofyes.