The intensity that playwright Jakob Holder brings to “Housebreaking” is immense. The play, making its Kansas City debut at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, takes a dysfunctional family and proves that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Bryan Moses, who plays Chad, is fabulous in his role as the angry brother who brings home Carmine, a homeless man. Moses interpretation of the character appears effortless, yet strong and dynamic at the same time. Early in the play it is hard to like Chad, but before the ending of the first act sympathy can be felt for him as the audience discovers his true reason for bringing home Carmine.
Carmine, played by Forrest Attaway, is a weak minded yet likeable character in the first act. Attaway makes the transition to the strong, powerful character he assumes in the second act with ease and believability. At first the second act is slightly confusing, but then playwright Holder quickly brings it into perspective when Moses returns to the stage.
Melissa Fennewald is making her debut at the Met in the role of Magda, Chad’s antagonistic sister. Fennewald is superb at antagonizing Chad in everything she says and does in the first act. She appears to only tolerate her father and is indifferent to Carmine. By the return to the stage for the second act Fennewald has given the character depth by her treatment of Attaway’s character and the disgust she portrays towards the character Moses brings back to the stage.
Most of the comic relief, which is definitely needed in such a powerful play, is Robert Elliott as the Dad. Elliott’s performance as the dad, who in the first act is in a constant drunken stupor, is magnificent and gives the audience moments to catch their breath. You’re left wondering in the second act if dad knows what is going on or is he just willing to accept anything to get the son he always wanted.
The play directed by Bob Paisley brings a different look to the homeless population (listen carefully to what Carmine says in the first act). Paisley is brilliant at interpreting Holder’s work and bringing it to life on the stage. The play makes the audience think, with a twist that is likely not expected.
Anyone interested in seeing a highly dramatic piece performed by some of the best talent in Kansas City should not miss “Housebreaking”. The production runs through Jan. 27 at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre at 3614 Main.