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The Luckiest People

While familial dysfunction has been a staple of theatre from the beginning of the art form (think Oedipus Rex)—often with predictable tragic results—in the rolling world premiere of The Luckiest People, now running at Curious Theatre Company, playwright Meridith Friedman goes a different route, taking us on an wholly unpredictable journey of love and loss, epiphanies and endurance.

(Left to right) Randy Moore as Oscar and Erik Sandvold as Richard
(L to R) Randy Moore as Oscar
and Erik Sandvold as Richard
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Richard (Erik Sandvold) is a successful doctor. He and his partner, David (John Jurcheck), a high-level marketing exec, are considering adopting a child, when Richard's mother passes away and his father (Randy Moore) begins making overtures about moving in with the couple. Richard's sister, Laura (Karen Slack), flies in from Shanghai to help him sort through these life-changing events and the assorted familial baggage that bubbles up around them.

Sandvold's embodiment of festidiousness and circumspection is both archetypal and organic, leaving us to sympathize with his plights—with his father, his sister, and his lover—though we are powerless to help him get over the subconscious forces that underlie his fears.

(Left to right) Randy Moore as Oscar and John Jurcheck as David
(L to R) Randy Moore as Oscar
and John Jurcheck as David
Photo: Michael Ensminger
In contrast, Jurcheck is wonderfully heart-centered and unencumbered, always ready with the kind word or analytical insight, and gracious when his character says things that are hilariously off-message, as the only goy in a Jewish family.

Moore, the veteran, former-DCTC favorite, is an endearing mix of a curmudgeonly and life-wizened elder, who doesn't miss a detail when interrogating and criticizing his kids, while incrementally revealing his character's strong heart, leading to a sweet epiphany.

Karen Slack as Laura and John Jurcheck as David
Karen Slack as Laura
and John Jurcheck as David
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Slack, her emotions on her sleeve, compells us to take a wild, passionate ride through the trials of growing up a girl in a patriarchial family and being a woman in a man's world. As with all the characters in this drama, here, too, Friedman has provided a catharsis, stemming from a temptation fulfilled and released.

The title of the piece is taken from the hit song, "People," composed by Jule Styne with lyrics by Bob Merrill for the 1964 Broadway musical Funny Girl, starring Barbra Streisand, whose interpretation became her signature number and the standard by which all covers of the tune are shaded. Friedman's thoughtful messages in the play are perfectly in tune with her theme song.

Director Chip Walton's well-cast ensemble hits all the right notes. Charles Packard's set is a stunning study in contrasts that reveals the way generational lifestyles are subject to maturation and change, although the elevation of Richard and David's abode, along with some blocking choices, creates some hearing challenges in the lower-level seating. Shannon McKinney performs magic in lighting these overlapping, starkly different sets and topping this off with a series of sky changes that underscore the mood throughout.

Curious Theatre Company's presentation of The Luckiest People, by Meridith Friedman runs through June 17th. For tickets: http://curioustheatre.org.

Bob Bows



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