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With its first production, "The House of Yes," Yellow House could use some remodeling. 

You say, "Yes," I Say "Maybe"

Dysfunctional families seem to be enjoying a small surge in popularity on Richmond stages. While the family unit explodes into madness during the course of "Side Man" at the Barksdale, the Pascal clan in "The House of Yes" implodes upon itself due to violent jealousies that ignite between family members. And while "Side Man" plays it straight, this first stage offering from Yellow House Productions goes for laughs, thanks to a script from playwright Wendy MacLeod, a script filled with acid-tongued barbs of the most darkly comedic kind.

The swirling whirlpool of emotions that eventually takes this family down begins with Jackie-O (Kristi Jurewicz), a patently insane woman with an overwhelming obsession with the Kennedys. She regularly dons a replica — complete with bloodstains — of the pink suit the real Jackie wore when JFK was assassinated,. She is overly possessive of her twin brother, Marty (Bryant Pugh), and can't be controlled by her little brother, Anthony (Danny Wikowsky), or her doddering alcoholic mother, Mrs. Pascal (Elizabeth Cusack). When Marty brings home his new fiancé, Lesley (Tate Hanyok), it's clear that no good will come of it.

Though I generally enjoyed "The House of Yes," I left the theater with a pretty long wish list, which is not usually a good sign. I wished that rookie director Jonathan Wright had slowed the pace just a little and given his actors a bit more room so we could have gotten to know this odious bunch of oddballs better. I hoped for a truly gifted actress to play Jackie-O, a character that could dominate the stage with her all-encompassing egomania. While Jurewicz does an adequate job in getting the sly, calculating aspects of Jackie's personality right, she often projects a simple, garden-variety madness.

I also wished Hanyok had toned down a notch her nervous over-animation in the early scenes so that Lesley — the only semi-sane character in the play — would have come across more believably.

As Marty, Pugh shows some polish, particularly in an interlude where his character almost avoids being sucked into his family's downward spiral. Unfortunately, in other scenes, he too often substitutes a petulant attitude for actual acting. Wikowsky is amusing as the amiable and overlooked Anthony, but I wanted to see some darkness in his character to match that of his siblings. Last on my wish list was more stage time for Cusack, whose Mrs. Pascal drips with droll deviousness. If playwright MacLeod had expanded this role to show more of the soil from which these rotten seeds sprouted, I could have enjoyed more of Cusack's scenery-chewing performance.

Director Wright does a fine job in his dual role as the production's designer. His set neatly partitions into three rooms on the small stage; even scenes where action occurs simultaneously in each of the rooms work seamlessly. My final wish is that this production acts as a stepping-stone for even better things from Wright in the
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