It's been said that Christmas brings out the best and sometime the worst in everyone-- and Georgetown Little Theatre's Some Assembly Required proves that point. The play, which opened Thursday at John Elliott Theatre, centers around a Christmas reunion of a somewhat dysfunctional family of five, who all have some bizarre issues about each other. Mother Charlotte is a bit different, content to hide in her bedroom in the dark, a result of the dreaded `condition' which all the rest of the family avoid like the plague, afraid to cross Mother in the tiniest way. Father Darwin, is obsessed with his day-today `system,' which includes (among many other things) fanatically playing his collection of old long-playing records in the exact numbered sequence they are filed in, much to the eyerolling chagrin of his three children. Son Walter, the oldest, comes home for Christmas Eve, and receives a lukewarm reception from his parents, which one could believe is the norm in this family. He soon learns his brother Gordon is holed up in the basement, armed with a BB gun and drinking homemade eggnog, not wanting to talk to anyone, while his sister Stacy is also home, a study in spastic paranoia who is near to twitching level, craving a cigarette in the worst way. What results is an exchange of sometimes disjointed, but also funny dialogue as the five members of the family try to sort out their differences and finally settle down to have a proper Christmas dinner, before Christmas Eve wastes away before them. Paul d'Entremont plays oldest child Walter, and carries the play. D'Entremont gives his character a sincerity and vulnerability that endears him to the audience. In addition, his character appears to be the most `sane' of the entire family. Roscoe Peterson plays Father, portraying his character as one who lives in a little dream world of happy denial, while he plays his records, visits his wife's dark bedroom using a flashlight, and immerses himself in his notebook of totally useless facts and records that he tends to use to justify himself. Peterson's performance melds nicely with d'Entremont's character. Barbara Stasiw handles the part of Mother, who spends most of the play in bed. Stasiw gives a solid performance for her character, but the play's dialogue doesn't give her much to work with.
Eric Langen plays the paranoid Gordon, who is hiding in the basement, away from all `those people who are talking about him in the mall,' after his wife left him for a bush pilot. Langen's performance is also solid, giving Gordon a `troubled' persona that doesn't quite have a real grip on many aspects of the world in general. Sheri Buker has the job of providing most of the laughs as she plays the neurotic daughter Stacey. Buker's portrayal of the spastic crazed woman (with the hair to match) never ceases to make the audience burst into laughter, particularly during her frenetic outbursts. The set of Some Assembly Required is unique, incorporating three different rooms on three different levels, as the action moves seamlessly from one room to the next. It's a clever portrayal of three different levels in one house. Lighting works well too, as the action switches from one floor to the next. Even Mother's bedroom, which is essentially in darkness, has effective lighting to give the audience a sense of a dark bedroom. Some Assembly Required is not an easy play to watch. The dialogue, although humorous, has moments that is can actually cause one to want to scream at the protagonists, and tell them to grow up. At times, Some Assembly Required gives one a feeling of the movie National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, as the plot seems to prey on every foible of the Christmas season. Some Assembly Required is a funny play, and does entertain. Act One tends to move a bit slowly but the audience is rewarded for their patience when the curtains open on Act Two. The play continues its run this week.