It has been a summer of sell-out performances and rave reviews for Princeton Summer Theater, and this season’s finale, “Appropriate,” will certainly add to the excitement. “Appropriate” is a relatively new work by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins — a Princeton graduate who a decade ago worked in the very spaces now staging his play.
The 2014 Obie award-winner is not a simple work, although it presents itself as a rather meager collection of relatives seeking what might be a tidy inheritance from a daddy who died somewhere in southeast Arkansas. But these are greedy relatives perhaps not much deserving of consideration, and there is a scrapbook of pictures showing many lynchings of blacks that must be considered. Interesting the first scene of the play, most of the second act (of three), and a somewhat confusing epilogue take place in semi-darkness — perhaps a signal from the playwright that he intends to keep us in the dark about his true intentions.
Not very much happens, although there is plenty of talk (about 20 minutes too much many felt and the evening takes a full 150 minutes to unwind). But if art doesn’t always succeed, entertainment most certainly does. Now, all that darkness makes it tricky to spot the characters’ expressions and they react to the conversation, but the company is terrific.
You may have difficulty picking out favorites among the cast, but mine included Alex Vogelsang as Toni, Noah Riley as Rhys, Christopher Damen as Bo, and Olivia Levine as Rachel. The rest of the fine cast is made up of Meagan Raker, Sawyer Berness, Brennan Lowery, and Olivia Nice.
The set design, by Joseph Haggerty tops anything he has done this season, and Sydney Becker has lit it with intelligence and considerable emotion. The former is in his fifth season with Princeton Summer Theater; while Becker is doing his first show in the Princeton area and now heads for Arena Stage Theater in Washington, D.C.
And directing it all is Tatiana Pandiani, an Argentine-born, New York based director and choreographer. She has directed as far away as Amsterdam and teaches at Columbia (a directing fellow). And to show what she had to face, the playwright himself admitted that he borrowed some of his plot devices from other plays he has enjoyed, tossed them together, and “cooked the pot” to see what might come out. Have a good time!
Appropriate, Princeton Summer Theater, Hamilton Murray Theater, Princeton University, through Sunday, August 20. Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. $24.50 to $29.50. 732-997-0205 or www.princetonsummertheater.org.