Theater Review: PUT YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER (La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego)

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by Milo Shapiro on June 14, 2019

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


There is so much that is right about Ike Holter’s clever script of Put Your House in Order. Because of that, it is unfortunate that, in the end, it is just a bit unfulfilling — and challenging to explain why without giving away much of what certainly makes the program interesting throughout.

It starts on Arnel Sancianco’s gorgeous set of the backyard of a two-story house in Evanston, Illinois, near Chicago. An oddly matched, unlikely twosome is on either their first date or their third, depending on “what counts.” Either way, it’s the first time they are alone, spending time in the backyard of Caroline’s absent parents’ home, where she downplays how nice her home is, but most people would love a backyard that pleasant to retreat to.

The show is a three-hander, with Shannon Matesky taking the prize of the three as the bright (and likely ADD-plagued) Caroline, whose references and moods change minute-to-minute. She is fascinating to watch. Close behind in captivation, intensely flip-flopping between eagerness and wariness, is Nolan (Behzad Dabu), trying to surf the shifting wave that is Caroline while being true to himself.

Dabu showcases his versatility with this bold, likeable, masculine character who is almost unrecognizable from the snide, pretentious Simon he depicts on ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder. The tension between Nolan and Caroline is palpable as they quickly tap into themes of ethics, racism, sexuality, judgment, and more. The ping-pong of ideas between these two in the first third of the show is the best part, exquisitely paced with Lili-Anne Brown’s rapid fire direction.

Local staple Linda Libby rounds out the cast as the delightfully nutty neighbor, Josephine — over the top, certainly, but only so much as to make her fun to watch. As Josephine shares big news, she becomes the catalyst that propels the plot into a genre we don’t foresee from the first thirty 30 minutes.

So far, so good, right? Other than one physical fight scene (staged by Steve Rankin) that appears a bit forced in the intimate Forum Theatre, the intensity of the show is beguiling and, admittedly, the plot never fails to hold us. The problem in the end is just that we’ve seen this kind of story before. The couple are excitingly well-written, but the dynamic between them is more unique than where the story goes. It seems Holter wanted to work in a horror genre and, to that goal, developed two fascinatingly-flawed characters — only to then thrust them into a surreal situation. The result is enjoyable, but this reviewer would have been more excited to see what Mr. Holter’s clever wit could have delivered had he scrapped his intended plot and just explored what would become of a simple date between these two edgy millennials without all the external forces and open questions that take over.

photos by Jim Carmody

Put Your House in Order
La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego
2910 La Jolla Village Drive in La Jolla
Tues & Wed at 7:30; Thurs & Fri at 8; Sat at 2 & 8; Sun at 2 & 7
ends on June 30, 2019
for tickets, call ­ 858.550.1010 or visit La Jolla Playhouse

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