I've seen several shows at Germinal, and this was the first one with which I was just dumbfounded. As you'll see below, the show is Cocteau's 'Indiscretions,' an absurdist farce. But they chose to use these dialects that sounded like these people were the offspring of Dr. Phil mating with a retarded monkey. And while I suspect that the point was to make the whole thing even more absurdist, it was really off-putting.
I don't know why I get so offended when people employ bad Southern accents and bad Southern stereotypes. As with any stereotype, there is some sliver of truth buried within; I myself make fun of white trash and rednecks all the time.
Maybe it's just because it's such an easy target. People forget that rednecks live in all fifty states; look at Alaska, and all we've learned about that (very very northern) state over the past couple of years. Ignorant, redneck trash abounds; to pin all of it on the South is disingenuous, especially when it appears as though you have no real experience with the South, or with actual southerners, as it does with these people and their accents.
There will surely be those who say I just don't get the absurdism of the piece; I say it is possible to be absurdist without being ridiculous. And despite some genuinely funny moments, this piece is just ridiculous.
Kirsten Deane as Madeleine and Royce Wood as Michael in Germinal Stage-Denver's "Indiscretions." (Courtesy Germinal Stage-Denver)
When French auteur Jean Cocteau first wrote "Les Parents Terribles," later renamed "Indiscretions" for American audiences, he was probably unfamiliar with the term "white trash."
But luckily for director Ed Baierlein and Germinal Stage-Denver, in modern America this is one of the last groups of people it is generally considered safe to ridicule en masse: the lowlife who runs shirtless and drunk from police on countless episodes of "Cops"; the lout confronted by his several baby-mamas on daytime talk shows; the resentful dirtbag who blames the world for his own failings.
In Germinal's production, Cocteau's wonderfully bent family of wackos is portrayed this way, as the quintessential denizens of trash TV.
In their claustrophobic bedroom-cum-living room, which bears more resemblance to the back room of a pawn shop, family matriarch Yvonne (Erica Sarzin-Borrillo) whiles away her overdramatic days and nights, railing about her diabetes and threatening suicide at every turn.
But mostly she dotes on her adult son, Michael (Royce Wood), with whom she shares a bond so intimate that even if we aren't meant to take it as literally incestuous, it is at the very least deeply icky. They frolic on the bed together, laughing and rolling around like children at play once the rest of the family has left the room, smother each other with kisses, and generally conduct themselves as if they were a couple, not mother and son.
But when Michael breaks the news that he has found a girl he wants to marry, all bets are off.
The farcical aspects of the show really get rolling when we discover that Michael's father, George (played by Leroy Leonard), has until recently been sleeping with Michael's bride-to-be, Madeline (Kirsten Deane).
The only semi-reasonable voice in this mess is stoic Aunt Leo, Yvonne's sister (played by Chip Winn Wells). But even her attempts at straightening out the increasingly convoluted machinations of her none-too-bright relatives turns ugly when we learn she has her own agenda.
As Madeline, Kirsten Deane is the epitome of thong-exposing trashiness; she shows us a heart that regrets her philandering, but also a small mind incapable of behaving honestly. Her tension is palpable and genuine as she viciously pops her gum and taps her foot with a jittery mania.
As Yvonne, Sarzin-Borrillo has a sweet zaniness about her that makes you root for the batty old thing despite her misguided motivations. She is a diva gone mad, crammed up in a madhouse of her own making, with a captive audience but no stage upon which to play.
But even though she is the most over-the-top character in the show, Yvonne still somehow seems grounded; she is clearly a loon, yet she's human at the same time.
The real problems come about because other cast members seem more cartoon than human, especially when they speak in accents akin to what Dr. Phil might sound like if some disgruntled viewer were to cave in half his skull with a hammer. Leroy Leonard as George (pronounced here as Gee-yo-uh-j) especially comes off as a mentally disabled Foghorn Leghorn crossed with Mr. Mackey from "South Park."
And in this case, it is unfortunate that the old axiom "like father, like son" holds true: Royce Wood's Michael employs the same non-dialect.
For anyone from the South, or who has spent time in the South, or who has even spoken with someone from the South, the accents are guaranteed to grate. Even if this is all meant to be part of the absurdity of the piece, it is still insanely distracting and honestly rather pointless.
What, are audiences taken to be so stupid that we won't be capable of understanding the absurdity of these people and this piece without such cartoonish choices being forced on us?
The show has its moments — many of them, in fact — but mostly it's an exercise in looking down one's nose at a paper-thin version of the worst aspects of humanity.
And there simply is no challenge in tearing down a straw man made of such flimsy materials.
"Indiscretions" **1/2 (out of four stars)
Comedy. Presented by Germinal-Stage Denver, 2450 W. 44th Ave. Written by Jean Cocteau; adapted by Jeremy Sams. Directed by Ed Baierlein. Through June 23. 2 hours, 15 minutes . 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 7 p.m. Sundays. $17.75-$21.75. 303-455-7108 or germinalstage.com