When you think of intelligent, witty, and thought-provoking drama, home maintenance, architecture, and on-line gaming aren’t the first thing that spring to mind. Well, get prepared for a change of opinion with the sharp, modern Multi Story Theater drama ‘The House Jack Built.’
Staring Bill Buffery as the harried but passionate architect Rob Jordan and Gill Nathanson as his brilliant and fiery wife, Kate, a not-so-simple issue of home repair and an unresponsive daughter become the catalyst for this engaging and shockingly relevant theater.
Rob and Kate are not only husband and wife, but partners in a seemingly successful architectural firm we assume is located outside London in one of the more well-heeled districts. The house in question is a sprawling, modern wonder built by Jack, Rob’s father, a Swedish inspired marvel that we are allowed to imagine as filled with white furniture, modern art, and, perhaps, bookshelves from IKEA. However, all is not bliss in this design magazine dream as a recent drought has led to deep, ‘fatal,’ and all around disastrous cracks in the foundation and walls of the house. Adding to this domestic nightmare is the disappearance of Rebecca ‘Becks’ Jordan, a former art student turned ‘Citizen Journalist’ and budding YouTube activist. Throw in another daughter about to go into labor and separated from her partner, and the stainless-steel and hardwood perfection of Rob and Kate’s life begins to give way.
Normally such a plot device would seem overblown and painfully obvious, but nuanced, finely-honed performances by Buffery and Nathanson add depth and texture to two baby-boomers whose worlds, which they so carefully constructed for themselves, begin to unravel. Rob loses himself in online fantasy games as real dragons and monsters rear their heads in the form of a crumbling home and financial free-fall. Kate, a Daughter of the Revolution in her own right, is horrified to discover the misogyny and bile that runs rampant through her daughter’s Facebook account.
Another layer to this multifaceted drama is the double-edged sword of social networking, something that while bringing them close to solvency, is separating them more and more from Becks, a Generation Y figure that I recognized all too well. Rob, Kate, and Becks may be hip to the latest Twitter, but no closer to reconciliation and reuniting.
The production is aided by the skill use of multimedia projections that serve as a well-crafted mirror into the thoughts, fears, ideas, hopes, and dreams of the Jordan clan. Instead of the projections dominated the scene, they enhance the snappy dialogue and inner workings of their eternally occupied minds.
As someone with a baby-boomer parent and in the thick of Generation Y, I feel that ‘The House Jack Built’ will resonate with an audience that, for the most part, is caught up in the same tangled World Wide Web as Rob and Kate. With keen observations into the Occupy movement and the workings of Anonymous, Buffery and Nathanson refuse to shy away from the uglier aspects of global activism. Our two protagonists are a delight to watch and shift with ease into the skin of characters such as a curmudgeon engineer and his own well-intentioned daughter.
If you have the chance to see this with your parents, I urge you to do so. Perhaps you’ll find yourself looking for the cracks and flaws in your own life and, hopefully, finding the strength to overcome them.
– Rachael Collins, Prague Film & Theater Center