The House @ Assembly George Square Studios
Brian Parks’ comedy of manners moves like a whip, but the rat-a-tat dialogue is missing the American playwright's usual political edge
The House is a comedy of manners that moves at the speed of a screwball. American playwright Brian Parks’ one act farce takes place in the homely front room of sweet middle-aged couple Martyn and Shanny Redmond (played by David Calvitto and Pauline Goldsmith). Martyn is a dentist while Shanny has dedicated her life to caring for their children, who’ve now flown the nest, and their neat little suburban house, which they’ve just recently sold to Fisher and Lindsay Libett (Oliver Tilney and Alex Sunderhaus), a slick young couple from the city.
The Redmonds have invited the Libetts round to toast the signing over of the deeds. It transpires that Martyn and Shanny have let the house go for a song as Fisher and Lindsay remind them of themselves; they’re the type of people in whom they can entrust their home; they’ll care for it like they have. As the supercilious Libetts, one in high finance, the other a lawyer, look around their new abode we get the impressions a few changes might be afoot, and soon too do the Redmonds.
Friendly chit-chat about the house and its surrounding neighbourhood imperceptibly begins to turn passive-aggressive. Lindsay's mentioning of red paint sends up a red flag, as does Fisher going off with a tape measure to size up the kitchen. Before you know it, seller’s remorse has kicked in, territory is being marked and teeth are being knocked loose.
The materialism and hypocrisy of the grasping middle classes has proven a rich vein of comedy over the years, and Parks mines it for all it’s worth here. What disappoints, though, is that in the age of Trump The House lacks a political edge. With next to no contemporary references, it could have been written in pretty much any decade from the 1950s onwards. The dialogue does fizz and the acting is full-blooded, but this bourgeoisie tinderbox feels a little tame when an inferno is raging in the real world.