OUR HOUSE is a Very, Very, Very True House

by Lesley Grigg

Jen Newby stars as Jennifer Ramirez with Greg Davis as Merv in Langhorne Players production of OUR HOUSE by Theresa Rebeck, creator of TVs “Smash.”

When it comes to news and entertainment, the line that separates real from fake is blurring more and more these days. Some people are more apt to believe breaking news that comes from the minds and mouths of comedians. TV shows that are supposed to show “real” life are on almost every channel, but how real can it be when script writers and post-production editing are involved? The Langhorne Players blur the line even more when they combine national news and “reality” entertainment in OUR HOUSE.

The set is split between two worlds, the entertainers and the entertained. On one side, we see the glossy office of network head, Wes (Steve Lobis), where he caters to news anchor Jennifer Ramirez (Jen Newby) and mismanages the head of the News Division, Stu (Robert A. Norman). The other side of the set displays the home of four roommates. A comfy couch acts as the centerpiece of the house, where callous Merv (Greg Davis) is stationed in front of the TV, infecting him with a “productivity disease.” The television is his portal to the rest of the world, his form of education, and his sole source of entertainment, since he can’t be bothered to care about much else, especially his cranky housemate, Alice (Emily West) who believes that a lack of TV equals freedom. Even though housemates Vince (Coz Baldwin) and Grigsby (Leann Wintermute) try to keep the peace, it’s difficult dealing with someone whose mind is not rooted in reality.

Lobis successfully plays the brutish network boss who’s more worried about the quantity of viewers than quality of programs. His rants over ratings are just as believable as his more serious sit-downs, although he did go a little over dramatic with his character’s distaste for writers. I’m sure he didn’t mean all writers, especially not ones who review theater.  Newby exudes just the right amount of self-righteousness that still makes her character likable, and the way she strikes professional poses, flashes Hollywood smiles, and captures the audience’s attention with her ever-changing colorful wardrobe makes her a delight to watch. Just like his character, Norman was able to “represent the [normal] people” by being the voice of reason in various situations and keeping his character on an even-keel. Unlike his character, Davis was not a complete idiot. He knew how to play a crazy person who doesn’t think he’s crazy and even allows himself some enlightening moments of truth. West’s moments were more frustrating than enlightening, and while she was able to play dramatic, it seemed to get away from her at times, causing a few line-staggering moments. Baldwin and Wintermute were on the “normal” side of the house and did their part to balance out the crazy side of the house. These two put the real in reality theater.

Jen Newby starts as Jennifer Ramirez with Greg Davis as Merv, Emily West as Alice, Leann Wintermute as Grigsby, and Coz Baldwin as Vince in Langhorne Players production of OUR HOUSE by Theresa Rebeck, creator of TVs “Smash.”

A note about the language: while I’m not condemning the use of expletives on stage, there is a line between cursing for effect and just cursing to curse. There were a few times it felt a little forced, where one too many f-bombs dropped at once and it felt like a war against words. The language is also lost a bit when the two sides of the sets collide, and it’s a constant back and forth match with lines on top of lines, trying to keep the story flowing and reactions happening in a dramatic manner.

With recognizable views on what should be considered news and entertainment, OUR HOUSE was true-to-life, which made it an entertaining night at the theater; but the truth also made it unnerving to think that this is the direction broadcast journalism and television programs may be going. Let’s hope more original ideas come about that don’t have to do with making the news and real people’s lives look more interesting by adding scripts.

by Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Aaron Wexler
July 13-28, 2011
Langhorne Players
at Tyler State Park
Newtown-Richboro Rd. (Rt. 332)
Newtown, PA

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