Review by Tulis McCall
(13 Oct 2011)
Well I can tell you one thing for certain – I wish I did. This is a show that you can go see for the set alone. But after the real owners showed up you would feel a bit like Goldilocks and hi-tail it for parts unknown.
Maggie (Amy Irving) and Lawrence (Mark Blum) are empty nesters who’s older daughter Althea (Jessica Collins) is getting married in a few days to Sandy (Jeremy Shamos), with whom no one is impressed because they haven’t met him. Something like that. Maggie seems more concerned with opening her daughter’s presents than with her actual daughter.
Into this squirrely mix arrives Dinah (Betty Gilpin) with her wedding date Daniel (Oscar Isaac). And the only thing wrong about this is that Daniel is connected to a pretty horrible family event from 12 years earlier. Twelve years ago Dina was 7 or so, so her memory is a bit vague, but bringing Daniel back to see the folks does seem like a colossally bad idea. Even if this was John-Boy’s family, it would still be a bad idea.
So right away we have a problem with credulity. But the combination of elements – writing, directing and acting – are enough to make us suspend our judgment and listen to our better angels. Even though the story is lacking, the telling of the tale is mighty fine.
The relationships reveal themselves layer by layer. People eavesdrop (the only drawback to this set is that the people sitting audience right cannot see what is going on in the kitchen). The wounds in this family are deep, but on the surface they are an attractive Yankee tribe. Mark Blum is especially effective as the man who will keep one foot on the ground at all times. Amy Irving is a caldron ready to spill at the slightest shift in her cargo. Their children are hermetically sealed, each in her own world where feelings are protected. So the two men – one a fiancé and one an interloper – have their work cut out for them.
We are led, bread crumb by bread crumb through the present into the past and back again. So seamless is this movement it is easy to get seduced into the moment at hand and to forget where you are located. This is Kazan’s great strength. She does not explain, she takes you there. She is a weaver. Whether the story lacks a few planks in the floor or not, Kazan delivers it to us with an elegant touch and a deft hand. This is her world, and you are welcome in it.
Where we all live is a lumpy location, filled with ghosts and memories and hopes and weird bits. We are more like this family than most of us realize.
What the popular press said...
"The botched ending, which seems to come out of nowhere and leave members of the audience muttering in bewilderment."
Charles Isherwood for New York Times
"As good as they are [cast], they can't make a can-we-talk tableau anything but pat and hollow."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"If Kazan had toned down the excessive theatrics, 'We Live Here' could have been a shatteringly real picture of a grieving clan rather than a half-successful one."
David Sheward for Back Stage
"The story goes off the rails, with unexplained motivation, unlikely incidents and a general lack of believability."
Robert Feldberg for The Record
"Not entirely rewarding play."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey
"Somewhere, the gods of dramaturgy are weeping."
Marily Stasio for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...