CPT’s THE FAMILY CLAXON proves that it’s all relative

Sometimes the regular insanity of family isn’t enough – sometimes the world needs to be introduced to a group like “The Family Claxon.”

Written by Eric Coble, “The Family Claxon” is running its world premiere now through October 28, 2017 at the Cleveland Public Theatre. This no-holds-barred, 90-minute whirlwind is as quirky as a pack of wolves wearing bowler hats – you don’t know what you’re witnessing or why, but you appreciate the novelty and you have to know more. And sometimes “family” can feel like a pack of wolves, anyway.

So we start the story with the homecoming celebration of the family’s 150-year-old grandfather (Kayla Gray). Grandad’s been sprung from the Sunset Gardens for the night (all 2 dozen forms and waivers signed) just for this momentous occasion.

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Pictured (from left): Colleen Longshaw, Abraham McNeil Adams, Kayla Gray, Hillary Wheelock. Photo by Steve Wagner.

Decked out with the latest medical equipment, blanket and mask, Grandad is rolled into the Claxon’s house for a celebration not to be forgotten. Grandad’s not quite “all there,” but grandson Andrew (Abraham McNeil Adams) is determined to make this the best party ever. “Wherever there’s family, there’s home!”

Wife Evette Claxon (Colleen Longshaw) is fussing over the perfect decorations, the food, and the setup. Daughter Catie (Hillary Wheelock) is upset about her cat having the flu. Andrew is steaming over the latest Twitter rant from the “evil Abbess,” who is trying to take down his company. Other problems circulating include the “inevitable robot uprising” and why the “Chupacabra is worth fearing.”

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Pictured (from left): Maryann Elder, JP Peralta, Hillary Wheelock. Photo by Steve Wagner.

This is where Coble really throws the wrench into things. With a chimney collapse and Evette’s job loss (shortly before guests arrive), things start to spin out of control. Did you know that “a person without a job is like a tree without fire ants”? Now you do.

Enter Marie (Victoria Zajac) and Benito Torkmunnasan (Ananias J. Dixon) – their basement sewer line has exploded with “all the poop!” The Claxons allow them an out-of-the-way place to wait.

Enter Zhang (JP Peralta) and Dagbjort Sallerendos (Maryann Elder) – Zhang’s dad has just decided to start shooting up the neighborhood! The Claxons allow them in while SWAT creates a perimeter, threatening the festivities. *Insert power failure here*.

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Pictured (from left): Hillary Wheelock, Abraham McNeil Adams, Victoria Zajac. Photo by Steve Wagner.

Enter more neighbors – it starts to feel a bit like the Marx Brothers meet Noises Off! meets an episode of Cops. With all of this going on, it’s easy to forget Grandad, the real reason that the family has gathered in the first place. He gets tucked back by the wall, and who knows how much he is comprehending.

In all of the commotion, director Craig J. George brings out several key discussion items. Social commentary includes the internet’s issue with actual “facts,” the use of social media to influence corporations, and what a woman should or should not wear in an interview.

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Pictured (from left): Kayla Gray, Abraham McNeil Adams, Colleen Longshaw. Photo by Steve Wagner.

Throw in food poisoning, rats, and a surprise ending, and one can only applaud the quick-paced absurdity that is “The Family Claxon.”

The only out-of-place thing in this conglomeration of weirdness is the appearance of the character of Bill Conti (Olivia Scicolone), who feels like a bit of a random add… even more random than all of the other randomness going on in the play. 

Liz Kelly of Cleveland liked the show. “I thought it was hilarious. Subversive but in a really good way… in a Moliere / Comedy of Errors sense. [I like the way] it expressed things about the state of our world that allowed you to laugh. It was over the top and very exciting.”

Steve Shack from the West Side of Cleveland thought it was “fabulous and relevant. I don’t know if all the audience got it, but I did. I giggled!” He cites corporatism as a strong theme, and appreciates the 20-something characters as very relatable – “like my friends!”

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Pictured (from left): Olivia Scicolone, Maryann Elder, JP Peralta (barely pictured), Hillary Wheelock, Colleen Longshaw, Abraham McNeil Adams, Kayla Gray (also barely pictured), Victoria Zajac (again, barely pictured), Ananias J. Dixon. Photo by Steve Wagner.

The set is unlike many sets that are typically seen at Cleveland Public Theatre. The Claxon set is a standard high-walled room spanning the stage and includes a staircase. It is very realistic and imposing, the work of scenic designer Ryan T. Patterson.

Benjamin Gantose’s lights are appropriate, except there could be a different kind of shift for the “blackout” that happens (it never feels like a real blackout, which gets muddied by the references to the “great light” on that side of the house). Otherwise the mood is right. Allison Garrigan’s costumes are on point, and James Gillen Kosmatka’s sound design is suitable.

All in all, “The Family Claxon” is a roller coaster ride that starts as a birthday party and ends with a birthday shock. It’s an intermission-free, fun time for audiences who want to be entertained, confounded, and reminded of the fact that a little drama in a family is all “relative.”

The Company of “The Family Claxton”

All mainstage performances take place at Cleveland Public Theatre, 6415 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44102.

Performances run through October 28, Thu/Fri/Sat/Mon, in CPT’s Gordon Square Theatre at 7:30pm.

For tickets and show information, call the CPT Box Office at 216-631-2727 x501 or visit www.cptonline.org.

General admission tickets are $12 – 30.
All Mondays/Thursdays $12.
Fridays/Saturdays $30.
Students and seniors get $3 off (weekends only).

The Gordon Square Theatre is ADA compliant featuring a ramped entrance and an all gender, wheelchair accessible restroom.

FREE BEER FRIDAY is every Friday at CPT. Audience members are invited to engage with artists and fellow audience members after the show and enjoy a drink (or two) on CPT!

Published by Kate Klotzbach

After writing for Examiner for 7 years, I brought my content to a new venue! Founded in June of 2016. I'm a Musical Theater graduate of Ohio Northern University and a long-time performer, arts lover and former stage manager. I spent 3 years touring the U.S. with VEE Corporation, and am a proud Cleveland Singing Angels alum. Lover of Cleveland, chocolate, coffee, dogs, scary movies, Cards Against Humanity and (of course) my awesome family. PLEASE BE SURE TO "FOLLOW" MY BLOG FOR ALL OF THE LATEST UPDATES AND POSTS!

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