News > Yes, Yes, Yes! to What If?’s “The House of Yes”

I recently heard someone say that the mark of a good piece of art–of any kind–is when it causes the viewer to think about it after they have left the gallery/theatre/music hall, etc.  This morning, I woke up uncharacteristically early, unable to get back to sleep, replaying favorite moments from What If? Production‘s The House of Yes in my head.  Yearning for my laptop which was stranded across town at my office, I hopped in the car, and voila, here we are.

Originally I was most excited to see the gifted Carri Schwab and Mary Fishburne playing opposite one  another, but the strength of the entire cast made this production even more memorable than I had anticipated.  Patrick Armheim, Samille Basler and Storm Smith complete our cast, and each merit individual attention.
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Directed by What If? co-founder Kyle W. Barnette, The House of Yes is a captivating production, with a smooth pace and excellent set design.  There are no throw away moments, lines or characters.  Every movement and word is integral, and entertaining as all get out.  At no time did I find my mind drifting from what was happening on stage at that very moment, or wondering what I might order afterward at Muse next door…I was spell bound.  This does not often happen.

Carri Schwab as Jackie-O

Rather than give you a plot summary–go see it for yourself!–I’d like to sing some praises for the cast.

It is pure joy to see Carri Schwab on stage.  She has appeared on Charleston’s stages with PURE Theatre and What If? Productions previously, and I swear she gets better every single time I see her.  As Jackie-O, Schwab brings the vulnerability, the savage, the selfish and the pure crazy of her character to the table.  I found myself alternately sympathetic and disgusted by Jackie-O.  Mental instability frequently erupts from underneath the veneer of wealthy bravado.  Her sick, carnal obsession with her twin brother Marty, played by Armheim, is disturbing.  Schwab inhabits Jackie-O completely, and moves through each moment on stage with grace and the skill of a gifted artist.
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Mary Fishburne was made for the stage.   Fishburne shines in The House of Yes, her What If? Productions debut.  This production is her first ‘straight’ play, or non-musical, but you’d never know it if I hadn’t told you.  Lesly, the earnest and adorable finacee of Marty, finds herself navigating a family FULL of excessively spoiled crazy.  She is the victim of the regal matriarch, younger brother Anthony, and Jackie-O each in turn.  Lesly is not as naive as you first think, however, and I was so proud of her showdowns with Marty’s unbelievably possessive mother and sister.  Fishburne’s marvelously expressive face and excellent comedic timing keep you engaged.  Somehow she automatically, undeniably wins your loyalty and love.  And Marty’s.  And Anthony’s.  But certainly not Jackie-O’s.

If you’ve never seen these two ladies on stage, you simply must go.  If you have seen them, you’ve already got tickets, and don’t need me to convince you.

Guest actor Patrick Armheim joins us from New York City.  Armheim is a long time friend of What If?s, college classmate of the director.  His character Marty struggles with the conflict of who he is, as defined by his family, and who he wants to be, as defined by his bride-to-be.  Getting out of crazy is hard, people.  Just as I was certain that Marty’s soul was completely corrupt, he redeemed himself.  Armheim’s aching pleas and imploring expressions were impossible to deny.  It’s a lucky man that finds a woman who didn’t run for the hills from that hurricane of a family.
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Samille Basler is our bejeweled, quick witted Mother, with a sharp tongue and humor for days.  She drifts in and out of scenes, a detached but observant mother who declares “you raise cattle; children just happen.”  A drink in hand and dripping in cocktail rings seems to be the favored portrayal of the wealthy, aging matriarch these days, but I like it.  Every time Basler entered the scene I was eager to see what she’d do and say.  I kept hoping she would embrace the fiancee, but alas, blood always trumps water, right?

Younger brother Anthony, played by Storm Smith, is what I’d call a ‘lost soul;’ a Princeton dropout, aimless and with little to no ambition.  Smith imbues Anthony with the awe, the petulance, and the awkward moments that often plague the younger siblings of overly indulged and dramatic adult children.  While Anthony had a better handle on reality than his absurd family, but I wished he would try to help them rather than simply shrug shoulders and sigh his resignation and acceptance.  He also turned out not to be as harmless as he seemed.

The House of Yes is a solid winner in my book.  This play is flawlessly cast, well produced, and completely worthy of your valuable time and dollars.  Something tells me this production will stick with me for the long run.  This is good art.  Don’t miss out.

words: Stacy Huggins

What If? Production’s The House of Yes runs August 16 – 25, 2012 at 84 1/2 Society Street, home of Threshold Repertory Theatre.  Performances at 8 pm, with a 10 minute intermission.  Buy tickets here.

Posted on August 18, 2012 by Art Mag.

Categories: Performing Arts, Review

Tags: Carri Schwab, Charleston Theatre, Kyle Barnette, Kyle W. Barnette, Mary Fishburne, Patrick Armheim, Play Review, Samille Basler, Storm Smith, The House Of Yes, What If Productions

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