Reviews

Appropriate ***1/2

Appropriate, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ dark satire on white privilege storms onto Broadway.

By: Patrick Christiano

February 5, 2024:  Lia Neugebauer’s staging of Appropriate, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ powerful comedy about a dysfunctional family, is a wild disturbing ride fraught with tension and explosive confrontations. The first act is one of the most dynamic to hit Broadway since the first act of August: Osage County, a drama about another dysfunctional family. Appropriate marks the Broadway debut of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, a provocative African American playwright whose best-know works are the acclaimed melodrama, An Octoroon, and the brutal black comedy, Gloria. 

Natalie Gold, Alyssa Emily Marvin, Michael Esper, Sarah Paulson and Corey Stoll.

Appropriate, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ dark satire on white privilege storms onto Broadway.

By: Patrick Christiano

February 5, 2024:  Lia Neugebauer’s staging of Appropriate, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ powerful comedy about a dysfunctional family, is a wild disturbing ride fraught with tension and explosive confrontations. The first act is one of the most dynamic to hit Broadway since the first act of August: Osage County, a drama about another dysfunctional family. Appropriate marks the Broadway debut of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, a provocative African American playwright whose best-know works are the acclaimed melodrama, An Octoroon, and the brutal black comedy, Gloria. 

His tale tackles the dark secrets of the dysfunctional Lafayette family, when three estranged siblings meet to settle their recently deceased father’s estate. A completely different production debuted Off-Broadway in 2014, and the playwright has made numerous rewrites since. 

Sarah Paulson and Elle Fanning.

Set in a decaying plantation mansion in Arkansas, where the adult siblings will come together for the first time in 10 years, we meet the take charge eldest daughter Toni first. She and the middle brother Bo (Corey Stoll), the family peacemaker, plan to clear out the house and auction off the property in hopes of paying off their father’s debts. Each has brought someone for support. Toni, along with her resentments, has brought her troubled teenage son Thys (Graham Campbell), and Bo has his devoted wife Rachael (Natalie Gold), who feels out of place and uncomfortable.

There is much squabbling and bickering amongst them. However, when their baby brother Franz (Michael Esper), the family’s black sheep, turns up with his younger New Age fiancée River (Elle Fanning), the tension escalates to new levels. His arrival triggers new accusations and criticisms, along with non-stop arguing and a crescendo of unruly behavior by all. 

Natalie Gold and Corey-Stoll.

Sorting through a lifetime of hoarded mementos and junk, they discover some mysterious and disturbing items hidden amongst their father’s possessions, photos that reveal a dark secret about the man. They will also be the catalyst for revealing the true character of all the players in Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ back comedy. 

The production under Lila Neugebauer’s direction is filled with tension and relies heavily on the explosive interactions of the excellent ensemble. Led by Paulson in a raw angry performance, all the actors meet her fury as the characters descend into madness. The first act is compelling thought-provoking theater and almost takes your breath away.

Graham Campbell 

The second act, however, is another story as you quickly discover the weaknesses in the play and the direction. The action goes nowhere fast, and after Franz delivers an unhinged rant, breaks down completely into total pandemonium with fights between the characters and chaos consuming the rest of the evening. 

Instead of being funny, their self-serving behavior is horrendous and boring. Everyone is dumping on each other. There are no moments when we see the characters attempt to connect. The evening needs some nuance. Nonetheless, the cast has been universally acclaimed for spilling their guts nightly. They are marvelously unrelenting and angry. Bravo!

One act with these folks is quite enough. The play works best as an extreme satire on white privilege. I suspect doing it is more fun than watching it. 

Appropriate ***1/2
Appropriate is now playing at the Belasco Theatre, 111 West 44th Street through June 23, 2024.
For tickets Sarah Paulson in APPROPRIATE — Broadway’s Best-Reviewed New Play (appropriateplay.com)
This review is for Appropriate which opened on 12/18/2023 at the
Hayes Theatre
240 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036
Opened 12/18/2023
Closed 3/3/2024
Photography: Joan Marcus 

Sarah Paulson