Mortar Theatre presents
INHERIT THE WHOLE
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
Nothing or something divided by three or five. A trio of brothers and two wives battle over the inheritance split. Mortar Theatre presents the world premiere of INHERIT THE WHOLE at Athenaeum Theatre. It's 1984. A dysfunctional family gathers at their childhood home. Their parents are now both dead. There is no will. The mountain cabin is in disrepair but home to the Vietnam veteran brother. Minimally, the property has value. Ideally, the father's tale of buried treasure is true. Paul, Lisa, Jake, Kaiann want something: security, freedom, integrity, redemption. Doug wants nothing but to be left alone in his home. The war is on! On the surface, the siblings and spouses are greedy, crazy and unlikable. But Playwright Dana Lynn Formby plows deeper to reveal the whole person by allowing each character to share startling, life changing moments. Poignant stories within the story. INHERIT THE WHOLE is about family members digging a hole together to get out of their individual holes. The whole thing is a buried treasure!
With Formby's words and under Jason Boat's direction, the ensemble unearths (literally and figuratively) the humanity underneath each facade. Shoveling the intensity with back breaking sweat, Christopher Jon Martin (Paul) displays a range of passion. He is the fast talking swindler. 'I have purpose. You have purpose. I want my hot dog.' Later, he is beautifully vulnerable with a story about a Monarch butterfly. The gun-toting vet, Derek Garza (Doug) plays crazy with under-the-top precision. He makes jokes about a meltdown over mayo but not losing it over a friend's death. He lives in squalor. Is he insane? Or content in simplicity? Should he be committed? Or left alone? Garza plays off his hidden intrigue perfectly. Stephanie Stroud (Lisa) goes for peacemaker, running interference between Doug and the rest of the family. Offering up lemonade and BLT solutions to the distress, Stroud is pathetically charming and complex. She delivers comic release with extreme moments of religious fervor and what 'being a grown-up' means. Sara Tode (Kaiann) is label-making practical. Inserting her bossy ways and organizational skills into the family mess, Tode seems to be a predictable Type A personality. Tode uses that mislead for a bigger reveal when uncovering her true motive for a portion of the money. Jon Penick (Jake) is understated as the pushed-around brother/husband. Penick exerts the majority of the influence over decisions because he has nothing to lose or win.
Formby, Boat and the multi-talented cast and crew illustrate the reality of the disorder of family life. The set designed by Eric Broadwater is a hot mess. Just when you think the house couldn't look any grittier, Act 2 gets down and dirtier! It's not nice and neat. Life doesn't clean-up because company is coming. Families deal with lots of ickiness... poverty, bullying, bad parents, unemployment, mental illness. INHERIT THE WHOLE engages with a compelling story about the best kind of family dirt... somebody else's.
Sharing the heated experience with me, Pickles describes the show as "hot, dirty, desperate."
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
Before the show, we join a good chunk of Chicago on the patio at Jack's Bar & Grill, 2656 N. Southport. The host secures a table for two instantly. Not a fan of bird shit, our sitting is delayed a few moments while we wave down a busser for a chair trade. Engrossed in conversation, we don't realize there has been a delay until the server apologizes for it. Although busy, Mary is friendly and efficient. She informs us that the kitchen is backed up thirty minutes. We order quickly an appetizer, salad and pizza to share. In thirty-five minutes, the apple- walnut salad arrives followed closely by the veggie pizza. A nice summer combo to split, the ingredients are fresh and tasty. Unfortunately, we are on a time crunch. The pretzels never arrived. Without hesitation, Mary removes them from the bill and processes the transaction with proficient haste. Our neighboring table is the real winner as the girls gladly inherit the partial remains of our dinner. No digging required.