The Glory of Living

As staged by Hyde Park Theatre, Rebecca Gilman's 'The Glory of Living' walks a tightrope between offensive slurs and comical jabs over solemn social issues

Arts Review

The Glory of Living

Hyde Park Theatre, through April 15

Clint brushes off his clothes a little, shrugs his shoulders, and with a Southern lilt, asks his wife Lisa, "How's my hair?" just before he leaves her to look for another woman. Then he asks her to comb it for him. Without saying another word, on the bed of their gritty motel room, she gently picks up a comb and lovingly grooms him for his next rape victim. He'll ask her to kill the victim, and without saying a word, she'll do it.

It's a poignant instant of normalcy between wedded criminals, played by Hyde Park Theatre company darlings Kelsey Kling and Joey Hood, as a nasty rendering of Bonnie and Clyde. Actually, to say that Lisa is Bonnie Parker is unfair. Bonnie and Clyde may have been partners in crime, but they were also equals in ill will and deviancy, whereas here Clint casts a long, dark shadow over Lisa.

In the first scene, Lisa comes off as a tough, unaffected 15-year-old whose raunchy mother is fornicating behind a bedsheet in the same room with a hollerin' trucker she met on her CB. (His handle: "Leapin' Lizard.") Lisa's mom, played by a rambunctious Andrea Skola, is a prostitute wearing a cut-off shirt advertising "Dick's Lobster," which offers us some insight into why Lisa is so awkward and insecure. While the reptile does his business, Clint moves in on the precocious daughter. When the lights come back up in the next scene, the couple has been married for a couple of years and talk about their baby twins.

For the first half, Hood and Kling communicate this burlesque affection for one another in between their scams. In his unrestrained performance, Hood's Clint radiates abusiveness to his spouse amid heartfelt promises and even a twisted gentleness with the other women. Every time he speaks, Kling's shoulders hunch over coyly.

Hyde Park Theatre's penchant for dark humor led it to Rebecca Gilman's The Glory of Living, which, like her play Blue Surge, walks the tightrope between offensive slurs and comical jabs over solemn social issues, in this case, the death penalty, poverty, and child protection.

Things take a more serious turn in the suspenseful second half, after the couple's arrest and the litigation that follows. Suddenly, Lisa is on the forefront of questioning since she pulled the trigger. Kling remains impervious, with the apathetic look of an empty child, shrugging with an adolescent demeanor. Throughout the interrogation, the court-appointed lawyer, a paternal Ken Bradley, pries into the heart of this amoral soul but finds no real motivation since she denies love or fear of her husband or hate for the victims.

The representations of the play's gallery of stock Southern caricatures, delivered by an ensemble of favorite HPT faces, such as Skola, Monika Bustamante, and Jude Hickey, are dead-on. Director Ken Webster has his actors deliver the white-trash comedy straight-faced without the slightest hint of irony, and Webster even makes an affable appearance as a badge. (His curtain speech is hilarious, too, though it might actually be credited to sound designer Hans Frank). Paul Davis' set looks like any trailer-trash bedroom in the South with muddy wood-paneling and soiled furniture. Don Day's lighting design completes the sleepy sleaze.

Lisa's lawyer tells her that she smiles at the wrong times, making her look more culpable, but with all the pitch-black misery in this play, Hyde Park might as well be guilty, too.

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The Glory of Living, Hyde Park Theatre, Rebecca Gilman, Blue Surge, Kelsey Kling, Joey Hood, Monika Bustamente, Andrea Skola, Jude Hickey, Ken Webster, Ken Bradley, Hans Frank, Paul Davis, Don Day

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