A World Premiere by an award winning playwright has settled in for a run at The Irish Classical Theatre Company. “The Onion Game,” which is billed as a hilarious black comedy, was written by Bryan Delaney who flew in from Ireland to attend the opening night performance.
“The Onion Game” centers around an extremely dysfunctional family – each member of which has their own passions and eccentricities. Actually, “dysfunctional” is putting it mildly. Think “You Can’t Take It With You” gone horribly horribly wrong.
At the risk of sounding old fashioned and plebeian, I prefer plays where there is at least one character who I can identify with or at least care about. In “The Onion Game” each character is wilder and stranger than the next. “The Onion Game” reminded me of John Guare’s “House of Blue Leaves” which also features a collection of off-center characters and also moves from dark humor to the macabre. Somehow, however, with Blue Leaves, the ending is strangely poignant and weirdly beautiful. There is nothing redeeming about the ending of “The Onion Game.” Act I is amusing in an audacious, “I can’t believe he said that” way, but Act II becomes just plain horrific. Act II also felt over long. There are some surprising plot twists, but then the play continues for another grim 20 minutes or so. I found myself thinking, “Oh, destroy each other already and let’s get out of here.” It reminded me of a tedious production of Anthony and Cleopatra that I once saw where, by Act 5, I kept thinking, “Give her the asp!”
This was a solid production. Greg Natale has the always difficult task at the Irish Classical Theatre of directing in the round and it can be frustrating for audience members to miss significant facial expressions and even dialogue because of this challenge. Some plays just don’t lend themselves to this theatrical set up as well as other pieces do. The one quibble I have with the direction is that Natale let some of the minor characters go way over the top with their performances so that, instead of human beings, we saw interpretations akin to Tim Conway’s sketch characters on the old Carol Burnett show. In the program notes, the playwright indicates that the style of the play is heightened realism but, with these characters, any small semblance of realism was lost. The actors who played the roles are usually terrific but here their performances, although funny, felt indulgent. Mr. Natale did a wonderful job of directing the central actors playing the family, however, and these are very demanding and provocative roles.
Stan Klimecko, one of the best actors in Buffalo, turns in another masterful performance in the meaty and difficult role of the father. He is superb throughout the play, but I especially enjoyed his lighter moments when he pranced and capered around the stage – sometimes on tiptoes and other times in demi plie.
Kelly Meg Brennan is also fine as his formidable, tough as nails wife and Louie Viscone gives an equally strong performance in the extremely distasteful role of their nasty and hedonistic son.
Rounding out the unhappy family circle is Ava Schara as their seriously neglected young daughter — appropriately intense, off beat, and wan. She makes Wednesday from The Addams Family look normal!
Technically, the production is of consistently high quality with special kudos to sound designer Tom Maker and a filmmaker for the quirky music and videos played during the scene changes.
The production runs three hours with one 10 minute intermission.
“The Onion Game” runs until March 29, 2020. For more information, click here.