Review #2 of 2: The Pact by Jarrott Productions
by Brian Paul Scipione
Jarrott Productions describes The Pact by Austin playwright Max Langert, as “a play about family, pizza, climate change, dating apps, and fringe religious sects...in that order!” Put this way, it sure sounds like a zany farce, and in truth, it is that. However, it manages to be so much more, due to the fact that all of the characters are delightfully three-dimensional.
This evening of theatre feels like the pilot of runaway hit television series. All of the elements are there to present a compelling story that's entirely off the wall and yet comes to a satisfying resolution.
Langert has created five distinct and contrasting personalities who work in perfect synchronicity (six if you count a never-seen husband).
The older couple, parents and grandparents Glenn (Dave Jarrott) and his wife Carol (Lisa Scheps) are devilishly charismatic and continuously hilarious. Each, time he says "I love you," she quips “Not now!" They're like the denizens of a great novel, and at the end you're left wondering what other misadventures they'll get themselves into.
These two have made the titular pact that one may expect be the force driving the story, but it quickly becomes obvious that the larger-than-life antics of their children and grandchild will keep pushing that pact into the background. Carol is more than happy to let this happen, but hubby Glenn sees the pact as the most important thing they'll ever do.
Their daughters Susan and Nancy are, respectively, obsessed with marriage and dating. Jennifer Jennings as Susan explodes onto the scene and keeps exploding. She wants it all—her old room, her husband, the perfect daughter—and yet it's obvious she secretly delights in remonstrative self-pity at every opportunity. Her sister Nancy (Natalie Garcia) wants the opposite: a perfect world in which she is forever young and fawned upon by a host of gorgeous admirers. Nancy sees herself as the hip young aunt to Susan’s daughter Keira (Hannah Schochler). Keira seems perfectly innocent and yet may or may not be involved in a cult.
All three are a delight to watch. While they don’t have the catalytic chemistry of Jarrott and Scheps, the women are excellent comic foils to one another, taking turns going over the top. This abundance of wild dialogue plays essentially as overlapping monologues and at times gives Langert’s writing an almost Pinteresque quality. Langert's script evokes the comedic stylings of Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward far more than it does to the modern schools of Wes Anderson and Whit Stillman. Those moderns stumble too far into the ironic self-effacing territories when depicting relationship dynamic. All of this is to say that by never taking themselves too seriously, the performers keep the humor at the forefront. The truth is that they're not the family you want but the family you get.
As always, Jarrott Productions pays as much attention to off-stage aspects of production as they do to what’s happening in front of us. The excellent costumes are both fitting and funny. One imagines Aaron Flynn spent a good deal of time raiding the wardrobes of many Florida retirees before moving to a Hot Topic fire sale.
Alison Lewis, Frederick Demps, Craig Brock, Rodd Simonson, and Isabella Anastasia Leigh all deserve individual shout-outs. The Vortex’s cramped Eloise Brooks Cullum stage, a black box theater with rickety wooden seats, is a difficult venue to transform, but these people did an amazing job of transporting the audience to another reality.
So, is The Pact a play about pizza, dating apps, religious sects, etc? Maybe on the surface, but not really. Working in familiar sitcom form, Langert ties the story up with a satisfying bow.
That resolution may not have been necessary. It's easy to imagine a continuation in which these characters go on forever jabbing, sneering, and sniping at each other, all the while with love in their hearts.
September 29 - October 15, 2022
2307 Manor Road
Austin, TX, 78722
Use of The VORTEX is made possible through the support of VORTEX Repertory Company.
More information about Jarrott Productions at www.jarrottproductions.com.