The Sunken Living Room

Monday February 12, 07
by Patrick Shannon, III,

A review by Patrick Shannon, III
David Caudle's extremely well written play, The Sunken Living Room was presented by Southern Rep (504.522.6545); and from his web site the following excellent synopsis and character breakdown were taken (in parentheses are my comments).


A November night in Miami, 1978.  His air line pilot father is off on a trip. His mother is out playing bridge.  16-year-old Wade dutifully does his homework and holds down the fort.  Then, his 17-year-old brother shows up in the throes of another drug binge, and his brother's girlfriend tries to seduce him.  Wade's ordinary duties escalate to a comically heartbreaking struggle to keep his showpiece living room clean -- and his family together -- as the world around them changes.

(This is one of the best acted, slickest and most professional productions ever done at Southern Rep.

The acting is phenomenal, perfect in every subtlety and nuance and each performer can be praised for showing our town just what really fine acting can be.

David Caudle is a skilled craftsman of a modern play.  He makes the sunken living room an important character in itself; and his absent characters are as interesting as those on the stage.  It is hoped he will revisit this troubled family.  And it is hoped that the goodness of his character Chip will not be in vain.)

Character Breakdown

Wade, 16.  A scrawny, naive bookworm who is not yet aware that he's gay, or is he?  (Performed by John Magaro with such sensitivity and clarity that we were astonished.  What a gifted young man.  He makes the show his own, lighting up the stage with every movement, every utterance.  Not an easy task beside the others performing with such high artistry.)

Lynnette, early 40s.  Wade's attractive but distracted mother.  (She was performed by Staci Robbins, who truly makes a smaller part into a greater one.  Her acting was perfect, right on key, and full of delicate nuances; a joy to experience.  Her silent actions at the plays end, conveyed all that could have been asked.

Chip, 17.  Wade's sexy, athletic, volatile brother. (This role played by handsome young actor, Rudy Mungaray.  He did a lot of his role without a shirt on and for good reason.  He has a lean chiseled muscular body that is as beautiful as his acting ability.  He created the role of a young drug addicted brother with a controlled virility.  His stage presence was; like watching a stick of dynamite with a lit fuse.)

Tammy, 17.  Chip's sexually-experienced pothead girlfriend. (As played by Arianne Ellison, she was a joy to watch.  She created a post-hippie character that was vibrant, touching, intelligent, and honest.  Her quick moment of nudity was done with taste and purity of effect, as lovely as a butterfly rushing past you.

Ryan Rilette directed the two act play with the precision of a Michelangelo, sculpting the performers and the script into a graceful work of art with high artistic values.  Mr. Rilette's undeniable theatrical talent and craftsmanship illuminated this production.

The suburban 1978 era set design was correct and lovely in every detail - from orange-golden shag rug to amber Spanish pendant light - as done by Jesse Dreikosen.  Marty Sachs provided the faultless lighting design.  S. Rayna Middleton designed the costumes, a sweet touch was Chip's Bert and Ernie T-shirt.  Excellent sound design was by Ricky Mungrary - capturing the popular music of the late 70s.

Don't miss this priceless show!  Southern Rep's staging is one of the best original high dramas to hit our town and it shines brightly among a score of nearly faultless recent local productions.  Not to be missed!!