Performing Arts: Theater
January 15, 2017
Violence simmers under every action in Anna Jordan’s gripping play “Yen” at the Lucille Lortel Theater. Occupying a spare, distressed urban London apartment furnished with one sleeper- couch and monitor, two brothers live through their video games and porn channels. The withdrawn, sullen older brother Hench (Lucas Hedges) oversees the wildly physical and mentally limited younger brother Bobbie (Jack DeFalco).

Executing tornado –stye runs across the space and over the bed, Bobbie has a difficult time being contained by the depressing room. Locked in the bathroom, the pet (or is it detained) dog “Taliban” emits fierce barks. This triumverate is ratteld first by the erstwhile mother and later by a young lady in the same building complex.

Discovered drunk on the ground outside, Bobbie pulls his mother Maggie (Ari Graynor) into the apartment. Not unlike two baby dogs smelling and nudging their ailing mother, Bobby and Hench are both drawn to and repulsed by her.

Despite the boys’ obvious escape from their mother’s abusive home, they care for her—in a rather primitive way—only to hear her ask for money. Yup, nomadic mom is not responsible and is clearly incapable of managing her 15 and 16 year old sons.

Tragedy is crouching in the wings and emits fumes little by little. Finally, their hermetic world is pierced by the advances of a most charming young 16 year-old Jennifer (Stefania laVie Owen) who comes from Wales, and who also suffered the loss of a father and dislocation of her family.

Intent on helping the dog, she becomes a civilizing influence on both the boys, and although she plays with the rambunctious Bobbie, her heart reaches out for Hench. Sadly, this one view of a family in disarray represents too many families thrust inside concrete apartments or tenements that squeeze the life out of the inhabitants.

A jumble of emotions readily poised to explode inside Hench makes him incapable of accepting Maggie’s genuine invitation to feel her physically and soulfully. Spiraling into a rage, brother Bobby finalizes the brutal scene.

Exhaustingly physical, the gripping production by Anna Jordan is insistently directed by Trip Cullman who appears to have a inside track to damaged families. An extra hit of choreography by fight director J. David Brimmer and a glaring light plot by Ben Stanton catapult the production at the Lucille Lortel into a searing indictment of urban blight.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

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