ACT II: A second look at area stages — ‘Successors’
By Hedy Weiss Theater Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org January 31, 2013 9:22PM
Colby Sellers (clockwise from back, left), Joseph Stearns, Jon Steinhagen, Bries Vannon and Anne Sheridan Smith in "Successors" at Signal Ensemble Theatre.
When: Through March 2
Where: Signal Ensemble Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice
Info: (773) 698-7389; www.signalensemble.com
Run time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission)
Updated: February 26, 2013 2:00PM
Any resemblance to the Daley dynasty of Chicago is no doubt entirely intentional in “Successors,” Jon Steinhagen’s laugh-out-loud satire (and comedy of bad manners) about politics, family and warped ambition, now receiving a zesty world premiere by the Signal Ensemble Theatre.
To begin with, there is something wholly familiar about the way Mayor Kenton DeKoven (Vincent Lonergan), a man in deep middle age — and the son and grandson of former long-ruling mayors — makes a wholly unexpected announcement that he will not be running for re-election. Nor will he be endorsing “a successor” from among any of his three children. Nor does he have any intention of backing his sweaty nephew, Lou (Steinhagen), long his chief administrative operative, who still lives with his mother, Mae (Barbara Roeder Harris, an absolute hoot), the mayor’s elderly, exceedingly salty sister.
And then there is that classic bungalow backyard — the enduring icon of DeKoven, a “man of the people” who is determined to keep his working-class roots visible while his still pretty, “she who must be obeyed” wife, Nancy (Mary O’Dowd), rules the roost. (Cheers for set designer Melania Lancy, who clearly paid a visit to Bridgeport.)
Hot for his father’s nod in this decidedly patriarchal family is Martin (Colby Sellers), the financially successful oldest son. He has a wife, Janet (Meredith Bell Alvarez), and a college-bound son, Tyler (the adorable Danny Mulae), who has brought his cute girlfriend, Amber (Ariel Begley), to a family Labor Day party. Also vying fiercely for her dad’s attention (think comic “King Lear” here) is Martin’s angry-at-the-world sister, Patricia (Anne Sheridan Smith), whose husband, Palmer (Joseph Stearns), is a specialist in Arab poetry (and thus a political liability). Looking on is the black sheep of the family, Scott (Bries Vannon), who has a rap sheet and a sexy partner, Stacy (Simone Roos).
Suffice it to say, some toxic family food, too much alcohol and severe sibling rivalry result in verbal fireworks, arm-wrestling and more as Ronan Marra directs a shrewdly chosen cast of 12.
“Succcessors” would benefit from a good trim. But Steinhagen, a brainy vulgarian, has penned enough hardcore laughs and spot-on observations to keep you fully engaged in this tale of a family that has been “on the make” for far too long.