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A Thorn in the Family Paw



 
I almost missed this worthy World Premiere of Garry Michael Kluger’s heartwarming A Thorn in the Family Paw, but I must confess, I blubbered all the way through it. Therefore, I hope you won’t make the same mistake!  From the first scene set in post World War II, to the 1992 conclusion, the play touches on significant social issues to the latter part of the twentieth century as experienced by a flawed, if recognizable, “Ozzie and Harriett” kind of family.

Using the conceit of each of four wedding anniversaries, we traverse the years from 1945 to 1969 (Vietnam), 1980 (Women’s and gay rights) and finally, 1992.  From the start, Susie (Katie Adler, and later, Julia Silverman) has specific ideas about how this marriage thing is supposed to go. Using her wiles and considerable will, she broad-sides her befuddled husband, Eddie (Nick McDow and then George Tovar), who is barely home from the European war zone, and immediately one senses that this family is in for a long and bumpy ride.  In addition to the pair, we watch their children, Samantha (Heather Alyse Becker) and Jamie (Ian Lerch) as they grow from feisty teens into (mostly) responsible adulthood. Although no new territory is excavated in this engaging play, Kluger’s ability to reveal the family’s humanity saves the Goodmans in our eyes.

Without the ensemble playing of the cast that must traverse time from youth to old age, the message of A Thorn in the Family Paw, this quality might have been obscured.  The actors, especially Ms. Becker as Sam, were particularly effective in their nuanced body language delineating each decade. Ian Lerch, as well, went from bouncy teen to poised professional in his journey of self discovery.

To augment Kluger’s writing, Director Arden Teresa Lewis achieves balance for the Goodman personalities, creating just the right tone so that each scene builds interest without appearing clichéd.  In addition to period-appropriate wardrobe choices, she worked with the playwright to great effect on another recognizable conceit: a sound track pinpointing each of the time periods, from big band, to hip hop.

The classic set designed by Jeff G. Rack, the unobtrusive lighting designed by Yancy Dunham, with wigs by Lisa Fabio, complete the ambiance. Oh, and the thorn of the title?  Perhaps you remember the story of Androcles, who picked out a thorn in the paw of a lion.   The moral of that tale was “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.”  You just may find the same sentiment after seeing this touching play.

PHOTO (by : Arden Teresa Lewis) Newlyweds Susie (Heather Alyse Becker) and Eddie (Nick McDow) in A Thorn in the Family Paw

A Thorn in the Family Paw plays through next weekend only-- Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at Theatre West, 333 Cahuenga Blvd.West, Los Angeles 90068. Tickets from $20.00, with descending prices for students and seniors. For reservations phone (323) 851-7977 or www.theatrewest.org.