By David Mackay. Directed by James Fagan Tait. A Yorick Theatre production. At Performance Works on Thursday, February 8. Continues until February 17
I figured David Mackay’s new play, Thicker Than Water , would be funny, but I had no idea that it would be this twisted. His look at a grow-op plan gone wrong is so perverse, absurd, and credible that it had its opening-night audience gasping with laughter.
Post-divorce, Tim is so depressed that he can barely leave his basement suite. But his opportunistic, poverty-stricken sister, Amanda, talks him into investing thousands in the marijuana business. The smokable shit hits the fan when Amanda falls for a gangster and Tim starts going gaga for a cop.
The brilliant thing about this script is that it makes honesty look hilariously inappropriate. All of these characters speak their minds and, naked, the truth looks downright strange. Within minutes of getting to know Tim, Judy the policewoman spits out “I date married cops” and “I don’t even like sex,” only to follow that up with “I’m not a prude. I like spice, but normal spice—like wrestling.” I don’t want to give too much away, but these characters all have impulses that tug at the leash of civilization; as desire feeds upon desire, the script journeys to the lands of fetish and porn. This evocation of extremity and absurdity—of vivacity, really—in the working class brings to mind some of the best plays by George F. Walker.
The characters’ desires wouldn’t be nearly as funny if director James Fagan Tait hadn’t kept his cast so subtly honest. The evening’s containment starts in its very first moment, when Mackay wanders on-stage in character as Tim while audience members are still chatting and before the house lights have dimmed.
The performances could not be better. Rebecca Auerbach’s Amanda is as real as the dirt under your fingernails. Mackay makes Tim’s anxiety excruciatingly authentic. And Dawn Petten’s Judy is so desperate for love that it would be heartbreaking—if it didn’t feel like satire—when tears weel up in her eyes and she yells, “Take a chance!”
A plot twist involving an Adidas bag doesn’t make sense, but most of the farce is as tightly tuned as the timing in a Marx brothers movie.
Thicker Than Water would make an excellent date play—especially if you feel like getting a little kinky afterward.