Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

The Family Claxon
Cleveland Public Theatre
Review by Mark Horning

Also see David's reviews of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet and The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Mark's reviews of Marjorie Prime and Well

Colleen Longshaw, Hillary Wheelock, JP Peralta,
and Abraham McNeil Adams

Photo by Steve Wagner
In no particular order, Playwright Eric Coble's newest work, The Family Claxon, enjoying its world premiere at Cleveland Public Theatre, is about modern corporate culture, care for the elderly, sex, gun control, social media, refugees, unemployment, underemployment, food allergies, American history, environmental catastrophes, falling chimneys, BBC nature programs, terrorism, the theme from Rocky, airborne viruses, racism, sexism, feminism, chupacabras, hacking, exploding plumbing, immigration laws, protesting, fires, floods, faith, optimism, PTSD, the national anthem, first dates, defective doorknobs, home surveillance, and exploding pets—all neatly packaged in an intermission-free 90 minutes or so. In short, it is a madcap mirror of our modern insane society as it rushes headlong into god knows what.

Andrew (Abraham McNeil Adams) holds a middle-management position in his grandfather's corporation. In order to slither up an extra rung or two on the ladder of success, he has brought 150-year-old Grandad Claxon home for a birthday party celebration to which he has invited the corporate board as part of his scheme for advancement. Grandad was one of the last of the robber barons who built their empires on the backs of suffering, disenfranchised Americans.

As Andrew and his overly ambitious wife Evette (Colleen Longshaw) wheel the old man and his portable life-support system into their home, natural, structural and man-made disasters begin take place as hordes of neighborhood refugees arrive at the Claxon abode seeking food and shelter. As plumbing and pets explode, armed neighbors engage S.W.A.T. teams in fire-fights, and mom wins and loses one corporate job after another due to hostile takeovers, bankruptcies and government shutdowns, the family valiantly attempts to ready the house for this all important party. In the center of the mayhem is daughter Catie (Hillary Wheelock), who is running a secret anti-corporation blog called Abyss as newly minted boyfriend Zhang (JP Peralta) goes radical.

In effect, you have a 1960s sitcom on crack. Directed by Craig J. George, the action is fast and frenetic, with lots of explosions and guns going off throughout. The set is an open-space front foyer with a large door that enables characters to enter and leave at will. There are also handy exits via the basement and kitchen doors. As for the humor, it is machine-gun fire quick as social references are piled up on each other. At times, the audience barely has time to laugh as the next absurdity is revealed. The simple storyline is just the vehicle for the barrage of one-liners, innuendos and non-sequiturs designed to elicit the quick laugh.

By no means can the word subtle be used in describing this show. The cast comes at you hammer and tong in a comedic assault of your senses. Some may find it a bit too much, as this over-extended sitcom leaves nothing sacred and barely takes a breath from start to finish. It is not what one would call a quiet night at the theater, which some audience members will appreciate.

Cleveland Public Theatre's production of The Family Claxon, through October 28, 2017 in the Gordon Square Theatre, 6415 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland OH. Tickets may be purchased online by going to or by calling (216) 631-2727.

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