This House Is Not a Home

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Those unfamiliar with the blue-collar Philly suburb that gives Bridesburg its title might understandably mistake Victor Kaufold’s new play for a wedding-day romp or a satire of the pomp and circumstance involved in nuptial preparations. They would be in for a rude awakening.

Bridesburg, directed by Jack Young, takes audiences inside the spare Burzynski household, presided over by world-weary matriarch Janet (Susan Ferrara). Her ne’er-do-well son Matt (Jeff Barry) lives rent-free in the basement with his pregnant wife Kay (Mizuo Peck), just downstairs from his equally wayward teenage sister, Cat (Brianne Moncrief). Cat spends far less time in high school than she does hanging out with her boyfriend Mitchell (a fine Julian Joseph), who is far more motivated than his semi-significant other.

The Burzynskis are all idling, moving in place but making the same mistakes. Young’s blocking, in which characters create the effect of entering and exiting rooms and moving up and down stairs by moving in a figure-eight fashion, shows how these lives are just moving in circles.

Kaufold’s premise is rife with potential—the family’s abandonment by Janet’s husband following Cat’s birth seems to have created nothing but a dead end for the family he left behind—yet the play never really rises above familiar angry family clichés—nor does the narrative ever escalate at a dramatically satisfying pace. The first two-thirds of the 70-minute show feel redundant, and instead of building to a logical climax it explodes in a singular burst of rage that feels simultaneously predictable and unearned.

What ultimately makes Bridesburg worth attending is its talented cast, who shade in sufficient nuance to make their characters’ aimlessness believable. Moncrief is outstanding as a youngster fighting emotional quicksand, provoking her loved ones as the only way to reach them, and there isn’t a false note to her B-girl line delivery. Barry and Peck work well together; both characters know they aren’t meant to stay together, yet neither knows what to do about their destructive predicament (Kay’s pregnancy has forced her to drop out of school). Barry also demonstrates keen insight into wounded male pride as Matt eventually loses his meager job.

Ferrara, too, is top-notch. Janet’s world—which includes a taxing job as an elder care nurse—is a bleak one, and the actress shows with every step just how much it weighs on her. What a shame that she and the rest of the cast don’t have weightier material.
Through Jan. 29, Gene Frankel Theater, 24 Bond St. (betw. Bowery & Lafayette St.), [](; $18.

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