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A CurtainUp Review
You Better Sit Down: tales from my parents’ divorce


I imagine some marriages would have been strained by, you know, the physical problems you had, but it wasn’t, they weren’t.
Photo, Joan Marcus
Divorce. A word with negative connotations. An action so common. I’ll spare us all the oft-repeated statistics. In You Better Sit Down, four Civilians members portray their own parents, and relay the stories (verbatim, though perhaps edited) of their parents’ relationships, all of which ended in divorce. It’s a straightforward concept — much more so than any other Civilians project I have seen (a study of Colorado Springs and the evangelical movement, a look at first ladies, an investigation into missing things. . .). And the format matches the concept as well; there are no songs, no choreography, no complicated set structure.

Four performers take the stage, each portraying one of their parents. Well, one of them switches on and off, portraying both his parents. A large projection screen fills the back wall behind the performers, helping the audience along with topic headers, names of characters, etc. The quartet of performers embody their parents just short of characterizations; at times their performances coming across as a tender teasing of their parents and their affects. The stories we hear — from the questions asked — are chronological. It starts asking how their parents met, and moves on through the relationships from there. The trajectory is clear: from relationship start, to finish.

There is nothing astounding about these divorces. Each story is different, and has its heart-tugging moments. Ultimately, You Better Sit Down is simply the study of four broken relationships. The study of something so common, yet each one is different, it’s own journey.

We see Robbie Collier Sublett, as his sugar-southern mother, talk about the sweet and innocent marriage whose foundation was in fact filled with lies. And of course there are two stories of infidelity; one bitter, one amicable. Jennifer R Morris – who performs her mother (Morris also conceived the production), is an opinionated New Yorker who wants to stick it to her husband. And Matthew Maher performs both mother and father, two socialists trying to talk (and talk) out their problems. Caitlin Miller lastly plays Mary Anne, who’s marriage to an older professor is chilly and uncommunicative.

Anne Kauffman – a co-writer and director, keeps the staging mild throughout, with all four performers spending much of the play in four chairs across the stage front. This is a smart choice, and jibes with the frank nature of the content. The simplicity of You Better Sit Down is sobering, and lets the show’s perspective take center stage. There are so many ways for relationships to end, but the story of getting there is always valid, always personal, always special.

You Better Sit Down: Tales from my parents’ divorce
Written by: Anne Kauffman, Matthew Maher, Caitlin Miller, Jennifer R Morris, Janice Paran and Robbie Collier Sublett
Conceived by: Jennifer R Morris
Directed by: Anne Kauffman

Performed by: Caitlin Miller, Robbie Collier Sublett, Jennifer R Morris, Matthew Maher
Set Design: Mimi Lien
Lighting Design: Ben Stanton
Sound Design: Leah Gelpe
Costume Design: Sarah Beers
Projection Design/Associate Set Designer: Caite Hevner Production Stage Manager: Megan Schwarz Dickert
Assistant Stage Manager: Danielle Tague-Daniels
Graphic Design: Jaime Valles
Associate Lighting Design: Alejandro Fajardo
Associate Sound Design: Arshan Gailus
Props: Kate Foster
Light Board Operator/Wardrobe: Elana McKelahan
Sound and Projection Operator: Jim Armstrong The Flea Theater 41 White Street 212 352 3101
From 4/0712; opened 4/12/12; closing 5/06/12
Tuesdays - Saturdays @ 7pm, Saturday and Sundays at 3pm 60 minutes, no intermission Reviewed by Amanda Cooper based on 4/17/12 performance
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