This House Is Not a Home

Written by Doug Strassler on . Posted in Posts, Theater.

Those unfamiliar with
the blue-collar Philly suburb that gives Bridesburg
its title might
understandably mistake Victor Kaufold’s new play for a wedding-day romp or a
satire of the pomp and circumstance involved in nuptial preparations. They
would be in for a rude awakening.

Bridesburg, directed by Jack
Young, takes audiences inside the spare Burzynski household, presided over by
world-weary matriarch Janet (Susan Ferrara). Her ne’er-do-well son Matt (Jeff
Barry) lives rent-free in the basement with his pregnant wife Kay (Mizuo Peck),
just downstairs from his equally wayward teenage sister, Cat (Brianne
Moncrief). Cat spends far less time in high school than she does hanging out
with her boyfriend Mitchell (a fine Julian Joseph), who is far more motivated
than his semi-significant other.

The Burzynskis are all
idling, moving in place but making the same mistakes. Young’s blocking, in
which characters create the effect of entering and exiting rooms and moving up
and down stairs by moving in a figure-eight fashion, shows how these lives are
just moving in circles.

Kaufold’s premise is
rife with potential—the family’s abandonment by Janet’s husband following Cat’s
birth seems to have created nothing but a dead end for the family he left
behind—yet the play never really rises above familiar angry family clichés—nor
does the narrative ever escalate at a dramatically satisfying pace. The first
two-thirds of the 70-minute show feel redundant, and instead of building to a
logical climax it explodes in a singular burst of rage that feels
simultaneously predictable and unearned.

What ultimately makes Bridesburg worth attending is its
talented cast, who shade in sufficient nuance to make their characters’
aimlessness believable. Moncrief is outstanding as a youngster fighting
emotional quicksand, provoking her loved ones as the only way to reach them,
and there isn’t a false note to her B-girl line delivery. Barry and Peck work
well together; both characters know they aren’t meant to stay together, yet
neither knows what to do about their destructive predicament (Kay’s pregnancy
has forced her to drop out of school). Barry also demonstrates keen insight
into wounded male pride as Matt eventually loses his meager job.

Ferrara, too, is
top-notch. Janet’s world—which includes a taxing job as an elder care nurse—is
a bleak one, and the actress shows with every step just how much it weighs on her. What a shame that she and the rest of the cast don’t
have weightier material.

Through Jan. 29, Gene Frankel Theater, 24 Bond St.
(betw. Bowery & Lafayette St.),; $18.