Jack's Precious Moment
This quirky and mostly unappealing comedy about a family dealing with the aftermath of a grisly death needs a more tonally assured production.
The action opens on Bib (Eddie Kaye Thomas) giving a eulogy for his twin brother Jack, whose grisly death at the hands of Middle Eastern insurgents was posted to YouTube. Bib's speech to the congregation acknowledges the horror of his brother's ritualistic beheading, but also admires the "purity" of the murder. "We could learn a lot from these terrorist fundamentalists," he says.
This provocative -- if not completely credible -- opening, delivered with naturalistic sincerity, gives way to highly exaggerated domestic scenes in which Bib's father Jim (Tom Bloom) and Jack's widow Karen (Karen Walsh) behave with a loopiness that edges destructively toward absurdism. We soon learn that Karen is obsessed with Precious Moments, keeping a careful arrangement of the company's cloyingly sentimental porcelain figurines as the centerpiece of her living room shrine to her husband. The play's forward action is derived from her quest to travel with Bib to the Precious Moments main offices to appeal to have Jack's beheading immortalized as one of their figurines.
It's imperative that we have at least a belief, if not a respect, for her wish to make her husband's death into a Precious Moment, but as it plays on stage the audience is more likely to feel condescension. Walsh has been allowed to talk in a grating, entirely false baby-woman voice that makes any identification with the character a challenge, while Bloom also uses unreal, senatorial tones as the right-wing cookie-cutter Dad. Both characters come off as cartoon crazies, and it's hard not to feel that they are being offered up for easy mockery through most of the play.
That leaves Thomas to center the play and give it what little emotional authenticity it can muster. But his character's story -- about a romantic dalliance with a drifter (Lucas Papaelias) who owns and operates a carnival ride -- seems in tone and content to come from a totally different play.