Monday, February 25, 2013


Albert Einstein once said, "Insanilty is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."  It is too bad the Tate family doesn't subscribe to that adage.  Each member opens the refrigerator door, sees it is empty and slams it shut, only to open it one second or minute or hour later.  They keep expecting a miracle, for the food fairy to visit and bring groceries.

If that  seems like strange behavior, the Tate clan has dozens more to share and show off in the unusually disturbing Sam Shepard play "Curse of the Starving Class" inhabiting the main stage of Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven until Sunday, March 10.  Billed as a modern American classic, it pushes the buttons and envelopes as it unveils the plethora of problems that plague these phobia-driven parents and their pain-laced offspring.

As matriarch Ella Tate, Judith Ivey is wonderful, a mix of hopelessness and elation, ready to grab any brass ring that may come her way as she crazily rides the merry-go-round of life. In her out-of-control dizzy journey, on a collision course with disaster, she holds on for dear life.  Her alcoholic husband Weston, captured beautifully in all his delusions by Kevin Tighe, has managed to squander and bankrupt the family's values and principles.

Now, when his poor choices are pouring through the family's non-existent front door (that he broke in a drunken rage), the only hope to save them all is the possibility of selling their rural California ranch.

Their children Wesley, played with a sardonic, despairing note by Pater Albrink, and Emma, a rebellious yet hopeful Elvy Yost, are overwhelmed by the burdens heaped upon them by their parents.  Both Ella and Weston each conceive the idea of selling the homestead as the solution to all their problems, Ella working through a lawyer (John Procaccino) and Wes dealing with a less-than-honorable saloon owner (Clark Middleton) and his honcho (Ben Becher).  Edie the lamb provides a fuzzy bit of humor.  Gordon Edelstein directs this visceral stripping of a family unit with stark realism.

For tickets ($40-70), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at  Performances are

Follow the scheming and plotting that ensues as each of the Tates tries to crawl a few inches ahead, to stave off his hunger and win a piece of the American pie.

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