Supper Is Not a Play About the Koch Brothers (But, C'mon, It Kind of Is)

Alex Elliott-Funk, left, Will McFadden and Joel Scher
Alex Elliott-Funk, left, Will McFadden and Joel Scher
Eric Neil Gutierrez

In the program notes for Supper, Phinneas Kiyomura remarks that his play about four right-wing billionaire brothers is not about the Koch brothers. But you could have fooled me.

A number of writers, including Daniel Schulman in both the biography Sons of Wichita and a May 2014 Vanity Fair article, have written about the personal animosities and legal quarrels that have transpired within this super-wealthy clan. Kiyomura’s pitch-black narrative — I’d call it a comedy except that by the end I wasn’t sure it was one — is nowhere near naturalistic, nor does it try to be. But there are a few analogues between the real world and the play, starting with the names of Kiyomura’s characters: Charles, David, Freddy (for Frederick) and Billy (for William). More germane are the parallel dynamics played out among these four, along with an unseen fifth, their father, Fred. According to Schulman, father Fred was a taskmaster who believed in corporal punishment and drove his sons hard, especially Charles, the dominant personality among the siblings and the ideological and entrepreneurial force behind their expanding empire. In the play, as in real life, an aligned Charles (Darrett Sanders) and David (Alex Elliott-Funk) run the family business whereas the other two, though shareholders, remain outsiders.

Kiyomura’s fantastical scenario takes place in Kyoto, Japan, at the home of Freddy’s fiancée, Naomi (Keiko Elizabeth), an ostensibly demure and courteous Asian woman with the instincts of a tigress. Charles and David have traveled to Japan to meet her, and are anticipating the arrival of their father as well. The engagement is something of a surprise, as Freddy (Joel Scher) has always been regarded by his brothers, especially the sneeringly macho Charles, as gay. And you can see why, as Freddy greets them garbed in a lovely kimono with lilting mannerisms to match.

What Charles doesn’t know is that Billy (Will McFadden), from whom he's long been estranged, will also be there, and that this get-together has been planned by the other three to challenge Charles' dominance. And there are other incendiary plots afoot, including one hatched by campy Freddy and cryptic Naomi, that will blow the already tottering familial framework sky-high.

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It’s a frequently funny and outrageously dark portrayal of male rivalry, aggression and bonding in an imaginary universe where there’s absolutely nothing around to restrain them. And as the sole female in the bunch, the sly and slithery Naomi will not let herself be outdone.

Alina Phelan’s sure-handed direction shepherds a terrific ensemble, including Sanders' down-and-dirty Charles, front and center throughout, and Elliott-Funk in a subtler and wonderfully skilled performance as his irresolute lackey. McFadden is on point as the relative interloper, while Scher as the flaming Freddy and Elizabeth as his helpmate each steal scenes with their inspired shenanigans.

GO! Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood; in rep through May 20. (323) 856-8611, theatreofnote.com.


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