Indiscretions (Les Parents Terribles)
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Ed Smith

Indiscretions (Les Parents Terribles) was written by Jean Cocteau in 1938 but Marin Theatre’s production brings the play to life in a way that makes the drama feel like it could be unfolding in every bedroom in Marin County. As the title suggests, the play is about two terrible parents. The mother, Yvonne (Deborah Offner) is terrible because she encourages too close a relationship with her son, which affects her physical health and her son Michael’s (David Agranov) mental health. The father, George (Warren David Keith) is terrible because instead of trying to do something about it, he distances himself from both his wife and son. Instead of facing the problem, he escapes it by carrying on an affair with a woman over 20 years his junior.

Sound like a Greek Tragedy or a novel by D.H. Lawrence? Actually, what’s pleasantly surprising about this production, directed by Amy Glazer (Candida), is that it’s a very funny comedy. True, it is a very dark comedy, full of underlying ironies, but because of an excellent cast, there are many hilarious scenes.

Offner, as the mother, brings a special comic energy to her part that all the other characters play off of. And of course Cocteau takes all of his characters to such extremes that they almost become cartoons. But Glazer and the cast maintain the right balance between cartoon and human so the audience feels free to laugh at this highly dysfunctional family while still identifying with their human plight – we recognize elements of our own families and friends, yet we’re free to laugh without guilt.

Added to the dysfunctional fray is Yvonne’s older sister Leonine (Frances Lee McCain) who has suppressed her unrequited love for her sister’s husband George for decades. The audience is also treated to another bazaar twist when we discover who George’s young mistress is.

When Indiscretions opened in Paris in 1938, the Municipal Council promptly shut down the production. While most modern day Bay Area theatre viewers will find the production has grown milder with time, it is a very up to date depiction of a family gone wrong. Or as Cocteau once said about his writing: “I hide the drama… behind a thousand jokes. In the same way one sings to keep up his courage in the dark.”

For tickets call (415) 388-5208 or visit www.marintheatre.org.

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