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Little Suckers

Theatre Review by Lindsey Wilson

For having a title like Little Suckers, Andhow! Theater Company’s production falls dramatically short of the shock value expectations it sets up. Furthermore, Little Suckers falls even further below the expected definition of “play,” generating instead a disjointed assembly of scenes that after minimal examination produce no tangible through line or purpose. The overall effect is one of ragged ideas and unfinished intentions, resulting in the effect of an acting class showcase penned individually and exclusively by the actors themselves.

Billed as “a bizarre story of a bizarre family who bizarrely copes with loneliness,” Andrew Irons’ hour-long offering fails to sketch out an identifiable family, plot, or objective. Most importantly, what this worn-out family is even coping with ultimately remains as shrouded as the gauzy set on which it plays out. Too many plot points don’t add up, which for such a short show makes for an awfully unsatisfying evening. Independently, a select few of the scenes provide the capable actors with opportunities to develop characters that go beyond the sneeringly banal quirks provided for them in the script. Together, however, the patched-together scenes just supply confusion.

For a show that constantly pleads, “I just want to be normal,” throwing together the vague hints of samurai warriors, imaginary friends, and a Dachshund named Aesop isn’t a very promising start. Especially when the core cast of four characters is no more grounded in reality than the flighty story. Lindsay barricades herself inside her room serving tea to three pretend guests while intermittently immersing herself in the manuscript of her mother’s slain lover. This is the only time when Irons throws us something to grad hold of, but even then the romantic recounting is nothing more than a superficial platform that peters out before the ending. Jumping in and out of this syrupy tale are the deadpan narrations Lindsay gives to her “visitors” and the playful scamperings of Lindsay and her brother, Kennedy, during their childhood. Then, apparently, something happens, and then, apparently, the show is over.

As the title suggests, Little Suckers refers to both the draining effect that having a family can impose, and to Nature’s own little suckers, leeches. Neither the family nor the leeches leaves much of an impression, but one wishes that the desperation seemingly felt by the characters had been better articulated without resorting to the symbol of being filled with bad blood.

Anchoring the production are four fine actors who delve anxiously into their fragmented characters and come up looking the worse for wear. Margie Stokley monotones Lindsay into oblivion, losing her flawlessly blank comic delivery in the muddled direction of the rest of her character’s existence. Director Jessica Davis-Irons also misses with the character of Morrie, who when played by the edgy yet wistful Erin Quinn Purcell disappointingly channels her sharp talents in all the wrong directions. Ryan Bronz contributes a goofy amiability as Kennedy, but since his character is neither really explained nor clarified, his affable efforts are ultimately lost. Arthur Aulisi is given perhaps the most difficult of the characters, for his Bucklin is teasingly witty and intriguing at the start only to decline into a truly baffling demise by the show’s conclusion. Thankfully, surrounding all of these misguided folks is a sincerely beautiful set designed by Meganne George and provocative lighting courtesy of Michael Gottlieb.

Generally when presented with the opportunity to psychologically examine a dysfunctional family onstage, the possibility of thought-provoking and highly stimulating results is exciting, even expected. When it’s difficult to piece together what even occurred during the previous sixty minutes, let alone care what emotional scars might have been inflicted on the characters, that’s only the first sign that something didn’t connect. Despite its misguided intentions, Little Suckers just doesn’t latch on.

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Andhow! Theater Company
Little Suckers
Through June 25
Ohio Theatre, 66 Wooster Street
Tickets: SmartTix