Parent Dying? Bitter Siblings? Yes, This Play Has All the Southern Gothic Clichés

Sarah Shaefer, left, and Samantha Soule in ThievesEXPAND
Sarah Shaefer, left, and Samantha Soule in Thieves
Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

Perhaps the best way to describe Thieves, Charlotte Miller’s half-baked, histrionic Texas homecoming drama making its world premiere at El Portal’s Monroe Forum Theatre, is to quote the novelist Pat Conroy quoting his mother on the Southern Gothic: "All Southern literature can be summed up in these words: 'On the night the hogs ate Willie, Mama died when she heard what Daddy did to Sister.'"

And if Miller doesn’t literally include carnivorous pigs in her expository tale of three severely dysfunctional and antagonistic siblings who gather at their childhood home (on Deb O’s serviceable dirt-yard set) to divide their recently deceased mother’s legacy, the playwright leaves few other clichés of the genre unturned.

Failed New York dancer Lana (Sarah Shaefer), lesbian military veteran Lottie (Samantha Soule) and paroled pedophile Walter (MacLeod Andrews) spend most of the evening trading bitter recriminations — too often as screaming tantrums — over sins of the past that vaguely concern their ex-alcoholic father (John Wojda).

Despite acting up a gale-force storm, the ensemble is finally unable to lift Miller’s language and situations from the earthbound and mundane into something more satisfyingly mythic. Director Daniel Talbott contributes some entertaining flourishes, but his penchant for chewed scenery proves a disservice to all.

Rising Phoenix Repertory, Weathervane Productions and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater at the El Portal, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; through April 4. (818) 508-4200, elportaltheatre.com.


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