Opening Nights: The Familiar

With so many cliches, call it The Overly Familiar.

An aging heroine, dark family secrets, and a horny ghost are at the center of Rosemary Poole-Carter's The Familiar. Sadly, this world-premiere play trades in so many Southern-gothic clichés that it could fairly be titled The Overly Familiar. Elinor (Eleanor Moseley) is a big-city soap-opera actress saddled with cleaning out her family's about-to-be-demolished home. In addition to harboring the figurative and literal ghosts of her childhood, we learn, the house was also recently the scene of a terrible tragedy. To aid her in the process, she's lured Sean (the affable Jason Pead), a stranger with his own familial issues, with the promise of all the hot sex he can handle once her trying task is done. Meanwhile, Elinor's sister Cissie (cast standout Lisa Carswell) wants the decaying house to remain intact, and she isn't above manipulation to get her way. Directed by Rik Deskin, the whole thing plays out like Tennessee Williams on steroids, never allowing itself to wink at its own melodrama. Moseley's performance is overwrought and full of crazy eyes (even Norma Desmond would say, "Girl, tone it down"), which prevents us from emotionally connecting with her character. Sean is played likably, and Pead carries a certain ease as an actor. (He also spends the majority of the show in his boxers—a bit of a distraction in the small, drafty theater). Yet The Familiar never makes clear why his Sean is so drawn to Elinor or why he would get so involved in the sisters' potentially dangerous hot mess. It's also hard not to wonder why these folks would stay in the creepy house, and not just rent a room someplace. But Poole-Carter's Gothic ambitions, it seems, are too big for a Motel 6.

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