Down the Generations

We all know that blue eyes and baldness are determined by our genes, and that even some mental illnesses are passed on by our parents. However, is something as un-diagnosable as loneliness genetic, or is it simply a result of growing up among lonely people? ANDHOW!'s production of Andrew Irons's tragic play Little Suckers examines this idea and more through the story of a family torn apart by hurricanes, both physical and emotional. The tale starts off in the present, and travels occasionally back in time, through a series of flashbacks brought about by the "youngest" twin Lindsay's reading of her mother Morrie's memoirs.

She soon finds that while the document does much to capture her mother's deep lonesomeness, it has its flaws. It is, after all, her mother's point of view, sometimes told the way she would have liked for things to have gone rather than relaying facts. Another layer is added by the fact that it was transcribed by Morrie's late-in-life true love, Bucklin. His editing and writing style often distort truths to cover up for his sweetheart's past indiscretions.

The flashbacks tell the story of a family turned inside out. Lindsay and her "older" twin brother, Kennedy, are haunted by their parents' late-night fights, and so they use their wild imaginations to escape. Kennedy dreams of becoming a samurai warrior, and Lindsay spends most of the play having tea with her imaginary friends, using them as a sort of familiar audience for her tales.

It is clear that Kennedy is the self-starter of the two; even in her recollections, Lindsay takes a backseat to Kennedy's wild adventures. When her parents split, Lindsay is forced to take on the motherly role, while her mother resorts to childishness, using retorts like "Make me" and squealing like a teenager when she receives a letter from Bucklin.

Meanwhile, Kennedy takes off to search for his father, leaving Lindsay and Morrie alone to fend for themselves, only to return many years later expecting to be received with open arms and a big "I haven't seen you in 14 years" hug.

Although the stage space is laid out well and the acting is all around very good, it is sometimes difficult to tell when you are watching a flashback and when you are in real time. This is exacerbated by the fact that the characters wear the same costumes throughout, with Lindsay and Kennedy forever clad in children's clothing. And while the beautiful set is intriguing to look at and employs levels and retracting curtains to create various scenes, the characters move freely between the "worlds," which only adds to the confusion.

Perhaps, however, director Jessica Davis-Irons has done this intentionally, and the lesson here is that loneliness is not central to one generation; as it moves through the various sets, so, too, is it carried on from parents to children. Kennedy follows in his father's footsteps by running away, and Lindsay imitates her mother's suicide attempt. Their mistakes are destined to be continually repeated.

All of the actors are notably adept at transforming Iron's terse iceberg of a script into a living, breathing piece of theater. As it is written, very little is said, but there is so much behind every word. Not a breath can be wasted when one's entire life must be laid out within an hour. Therefore, the actors are forced to tell the story through subtext.

Most successful at this is ANDHOW! newcomer but Off-Off-Broadway veteran Ryan Bronz as Kennedy. His physicality in the flashback scenes is adorable, making his character quite lovable. Everything from the exhilaration in his voice to his explorative movement invokes his character's adventurous nature. Margie Stokley (standing on only two legs in this production

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