Review: Domestic Animals at Palm Beach Dramaworks

Domestic Animals by Jennifer Faletto Jan. 13 – Jan. 22, 2017 at Palm Beach Dramaworks, West Palm Beach, Florida

A heart-wrenching performance in a minimalist play, Domestic Animals transcends melodrama and achingly tantalize the soul and nourishes the audience’s yearning for a deeper humanistic understanding of the costs of war. Palm Beach Dramaworks Workshop’s production of the Jennifer Faletto play made for a memorable evening of immutable sensorial expectation.

Betsey Graver as Lori in Domestic Animals

Thanks in large part to the theater’s tiny confines, the performance, directed by Margaret Ledford and starring Betsey Graver, Alex Alvarez and Clay Cartland left this reviewer engaged in the trauma of loss, love and suffering.

The story hinges around Lori, a twenty-something woman in the late 1960s, living in Alaska and defined by her relationships to her brother and boyfriend, both of whom have their fates determined by the Vietnam War.

At the peak of the conflict in Indochina, Lori’s brother avoids the draft, decides to explore the wild in some young life personal quest, and becomes a key player in the emotional and philosophical development of Lori’s young life.  After Lori’s boyfriend decides to enlist, she is left alone to suffer the loss of the two people closest to her in her life. she disappears into her private world of loneliness and imaginative hell.

Seduced by the escapism of hallucinations, Lori suffers down a dark path of mental and emotional turbulence and existential angst.

The performance is crafted to maximize the use of inter-personal relationship angst, humor and emotional proximity without wallowing in self-pity or the cliches usually associated with war stories. Ms. Graver and Mr. Cartland are particularly seductive in their performances.

The set and lighting are kept to a minimum, better to frame the anxiety and poignancy of a unique drama that combines elements of magical realism with American political meditations.

Domestic Animals is a lovely piece of theater.

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