The dysfunctional family. America’s calling card for drama. If it wasn’t for theatre to allow us to see that we are all a little off, we wouldn’t be able to call ourselves human. We all carry baggage, and sometimes our families have a great way of throwing our baggage out onto the front lawn for the world to see when things get rough. Some of use have gone through family struggles, and others have lost touch with their relatives. The point, maybe life is too short? Maybe family baggage needs to be opened and forgotten about? Maybe, forgiving those who we feel have hurt us, is the answer to greater happiness?
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ “Appropriate” airs family baggage in this dramedy about a trio of siblings who are all called together after the passing of their father, to setting his estate. There is, Toni, the one who spent her life taking care of the family after everyone went their separate ways. There’s Bo, the brother who is taking care of the books, all the while their father was sick and now after his passing. And finally, there is Franz, the Lafayette family’s addiction riddled alcoholic, who has returned at this point to make amends. Tempers are already flaring, but get even more heated when a photo-album of concerning photographs is found and Ku Klux Klan paraphernalia is uncovered in the house. While the patriarch’s moral ethics are questioned, each of these characters are mourning and working through struggles in their own ways. This script is completely enjoyable and keeps the readers attention right from the get-go.
Now, when it comes to contemporary shows, it seems that the trend is to have a family member who is addicted to a substance come back to make amends, and the other family members who feel wronged, will not accept the apology. I typically would roll my eyes at a story like this because it is done over and over again, but Jacobs-Jenkins’ is able to captivate the reader by making it seem unique, even if we have been presented a story of this caliber before.
The character of Toni would be a great role for a strong female actor who wants to be instantly despised by the audience, but in the end will be accepted by them. Toni has many demons of her own in this story, and her demeanor is captivating, even though she is not very pleasant in the piece. I think the audience will be able to relate to her however, because she brings up valid concerns about her family, and also is unable to accept that her father may have, in-fact, been a bigot.
Franz is another interesting character in the piece, and comes to the family after ten years of being absent from their lives to right his wrongs. Franz struggles with his past and this is what causes such great tension in the script. His presence is the driving force behind the turmoil that Toni enables during the family gathering. It makes for delicious drama.
Young Cassidy in this show is a fun character who is able to shine a light on the millennial mindset of not wanting to be sheltered by her parents, but wanting to take a turn at growing into an early adulthood. She has a great head on her shoulders and truly brings a young perspective to this adult story.
There are great themes in this play that are refreshing because Jacobs-Jenkins does not beat us over the head with them. Greed, tolerance, forgiveness, and love are just a few of them, but they are impactful. This is a script that was an easy read, but an effective read. It is a meaty story that a great cast would be happy to sink their teeth into.
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