A liberal, well-traveled, well-read and generally well-to-do family settles into what looks to be just another uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinner when a series of unusual events serves to reveal the ugly underbelly of its American privilege. Bruce Norris’ new play is essentially about the interpersonal politics of class — suspicions of the other, guilt about needless abundance, and justification for lifestyle in the name of the children.
A misunderstanding resulting in catastrophe brings the central family face to face with its cleaning lady’s taxi-driving husband (Peter Jay Fernandez). When the cad uncle (Reg Rogers), a plastic surgeon who brought “underage Russian beaver” to dinner, says, “You people want to be like us, but we are all a bunch of assholes,” he skims the surface of the issue but misses the point. The character, blinded by ego, is unable to tell the difference between what he (and his dysfunctional family) might have, and who they are. Norris shines light on this discrepancy while looking into the dark motivations and the weaknesses of a specifically American upper class demographic.
As uncomfortable as it is to watch this family flail, and ultimately completely deflate, the characters are unexpected and hilarious in their deficiencies and eccentricities. The subject matter, however dangerously close it comes to cliché, is a nice balance of dark, serious issues (child molestation — the darkest of them all) juxtaposed with stupid humor (the living room flat-screen TV accidentally turns to porn and no one can turn it off). Norris takes a fresh look at the culture of the American home (think Democrat, tasteful urban décor, therapy) and creates an entertaining and provocative satire.