By: Sandi Durell

Give ‘em what they crave when it’s Reality TV – authentic emotion, blood, guts, conflict – that’s why the camera crew is in this piled to the sky house of, dare I say, junk, in a southern town of Virginia, enlisted by daughter Jessy, to make order out of chaos in her family’s life, especially her mother Anna whose incessant years of buying everything from stuffed animals to books, dolls, videos and ChiaPets have wreaked havoc on The Capables.

What amazes first, at the Gym at Judson, is the intricately woven and impressive set of “collectibles” filling the stage area reaching nearly to the very ceiling (set design by George Hoffmann and Greg Kozatek).

The humor-filled dialogue between David (Charles Browning), the producer of this reality TV show and Jenny Bragg Marcus, MSW (Jessie Barr), a professional organizer, who sneaks in an occasional Dr. Marcus when on camera, is filled with zingers, as we find out that Jenny really works with retarded children – cameraman Tommy (Micah Stock) telling her she can’t say that (not PC), as he continues to film her tirades.

We meet Anna Capable (the perfectly cast Dale Soules), sitting atop a junk pile in an auto seat picking up food at McDonald’s for the crew, her southern twang immediately engaging and somewhat reminiscent of her recent role in Hands on a Hardbody.  Jessy Capable (Katie Eisenberg), who appears to be more androgynous than girlish, is skittering here and there and couldn’t be more emphatic when she says she needs that house cleaned – today!  Anna makes light of it all saying it feels safe and full.  The ChiaPet is fodder for jingle singing as Anna’s husband Jonah (Hugh Sinclair) begins the ditty, while the camera runs, as Anna goes on and on about her collection; Jenny bitches and Jessy gets her first on-camera experience. Tommy tells Jessy to “play the role of playing yourself being yourself.” David prods, pries and prompts for more as Jessy reveals that Daddy is legally blind but David is suspicious – there’s more going on with the Capable family. And, yes, there is much more going on.

Poor Jonah is dying of prostate cancer, there’s a son, who played the piano (which is unearthed as the TV Reality Show cleanup squad begins to remove items from the house only with Anna’s permission) who left and never returned.

Remnants of the past are relived as Anna’s mind revives her youth and meeting Jonah in an-oh-so cantankerous liaison that melts into tenderness and attraction;  the young Anna and Jonah cogently played by Dana Berger and Max Woertentyke.

There’s a glimpse into an attraction between Jessy  and Tommy that results in a funny scene where Tommy can’t stop talking in this neurotic one-sided conversation resulting in the straight-laced Jessy being introduced to “marijuana” for the first time.

The youth-speak, as I call it, throughout the play is filled with lots of coarseness and four letter words to which we’re supposed to become accustomed (why?), which the young audience just loves as they laugh often times hysterically.

Anna’s speech pattern and delivery are naturally witty and she is the most engaging of all.  Poor woman can’t let go of anything, especially a Miss Piggy hand puppet and The Weaving Loom set.

However, it’s not all about the wit and humor of being a hoarder, as the underlying reasons rear their ugly heads when Anna and Jessy, both on camera, begin to unload their grievances and anger toward one another; Anna complaining that Jessy must have a very particular vagina since she can’t find a man to give her babies and having no compunctions about throwing out Jessy’s high school box of mementos; Jessy just wanting to be thanked for taking care of her sick Dad and to be told by Anna that she is loved.

It’s all heartbreak, sadness and tears from here and I won’t reveal the remainder of what unfolds, the raison d’être of Anna and Jonah Capable’s problematic lives.  Suffice it to say that there are always underlying reasons for everything and unfortunate truths, like how we are willing to lie and exploit other people to get what we want.

The cast is all up to the task of providing first-rate performances although Ms. Eisenberg could do well with a slower speech pattern and better enunciation.

The Capables is written by Jay Stull and skillfully directed by Stefanie Abel Horowitz running thru August 3rd at The Gym at Judson, 243 Thompson St. at Washington Square So., NYC 212 868-4444

*Photos Hunter Canning