Review | ‘The house on rue Linardi’ finds its strength in familiarity | Culture
Back at the table accompanied by his siblings, Benny, played by Mitch Glaes, danced his fingertips to the prop and released an emphatic performance of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.” Despite the tense atmosphere, the rest of the young adult characters began to sing and dance alongside their brother.
This performance, led by the clumsy character, deeply penetrated the silence of the theatrical rhythm and brought the whole scene to life. From this display, the audience can fall into feelings of awe, embarrassment and familiarity – the basis on which “The House on Linardi Street” is written.
Premiering at the Studio Theater at the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts, the production is a 90-minute act written by drama major and playwright Juleanna Green. The performances took place Nov. 8-12 and were led by junior theater major Becca Stehele, a longtime collaborator with the playwright, Green said.
The play takes place over a summer weekend in the family home of the five siblings and centers on their decision regarding the inheritance of the property. Despite the conflict rooted in the plot of the play, domestic love is the strengthening theme that connects the audience to the story. As the story unfolds, it invites viewers to embrace the relatable characters and contemplate their own family relationships.
The setting of the Studio Theater can be attributed to the design of the box theater, which allows for the configuration of floor space and seating. Upon entering the theater, audiences are greeted by the familiar sight of JMU cornhole boards, a looming light fixture, coolers and other backyard amenities.
Pete, played by Gavin Kiley, is the first character introduced to the public. The son displays the personality of a flannel-clad, beer-drinking man who insists that the house should be shared among siblings. Automatically, the audience connects to Pete’s values and empathizes with the character who shows a reflection of the mentioned father.
Audiences can connect more with the stories the character shares with their brothers and feel part of every joke. Along with the main narrative, performances of stories and other memories take place that coincide with the main storyline. The other cast, featuring Campbell Ella and Luke Freisner – a current writer for The Breeze – allows viewers to relive the memories with the main narratives.
Pete’s brother, Benny, is the ostracized, socially awkward and most entertaining parent many can have. Throughout the show, the character drinks his fill of alcohol and displays a stark contrast to Jack, the third and final sibling. The character, played by Nick Moxley, can be seen as a perfectionist and cautious man, who associates himself with the legacy ideals of Cherry, played by Emily Whelen, early in the story, fostering tension and division between the brothers and sisters.
Cherry, a stern and determined figure, assumes the role of the antagonist of his desire to inherit the entire property. The character provides conflict – an attribute most can relate to in their own family – in the story and is constantly kept in check by Liz, played by Camden Gillespie. Through Gillespie’s performance, viewers can make connections between the daughter and her peacemaking mother, which is exemplified by reading their deceased relative’s diary.
Throughout the production, the diary further reveals memories that both facilitate and strain the siblings’ inheritance decision. Ultimately, the five members of the family are faced with the question: which is more beneficial, retaining memories or enabling change?
Although viewers are never faced with the same circumstances imposed on the family of the scene, this universal theme allows “Linardi Street” to connect personally with its audience as the house connects siblings. For college-aged students, this decision may be more obvious than ever, as we are constantly faced with misunderstandings and challenges.
Added to this choice is the nostalgic aspect that the piece displays triumphantly. Not only are the actions of the siblings driven by nostalgia, but all of their relationships are built on memories of home. It’s hard for viewers not to familiarize themselves with the characters through the memories played out and re-conjure their own from childhood.
Even with a familiar theme, the production certainly keeps viewers wondering what happens next. Although limited to a singular setting, Green was able to fully accommodate the Studio Theater stage for multiple progressions, relative characters, and idiosyncrasies that only family members would be accustomed to. This provided audiences with offbeat and fantastic presentations of action and script material.
Viewers of “Linardi Street” are finally greeted with all the emotions, multiple hysterical acts of song and dance, towering arguments full of harsh words, and the ultimate reconciliation between siblings. Viewers carry the weight of love, nostalgia, and decision-making with the characters long after the series has ended.
After the lights spread over the stage fixture, the audience may also feel a loss for their new family extension. The production’s return, however, is promising, said Green, who plans to upload the performance to New Play Exchange, a digital script library. In the near future, the public may be able to join the family history of the Linardi house and become aware of their own.