Branched. What does the perfect family look like?
I’ve always heard there is no such thing as a perfect family … and the Jenkins-Laurence family in InViolet Theater’s sassy satire confirmed that idea. They sounded as close to ideal as possible and they played by the rules of every modern-day stuffy parenting book out there. Tamara, the mother figure (who, for me, gave off a Fem-bot vibe), is an author who writes book on empowerment for women. Her books give clear cut instructions on how to be an independent and confident woman – which simultaneously aggravated me and made me giggle as she verbally dismisses all other women in her path. I watched Tamara govern her family, her disciplined husband and son, and constantly treat others as inferiors - even instructing her son to condemn the kids in his 1st grade class as intellectual inferiors (another one of those paradoxically dark moments in which I couldn’t help but laugh despite the uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach).
Now, I firmly believe that parents have the right to make choices regarding the style of their child’s upbringing. I didn’t necessarily despise Tamara for putting her son on a paleo-diet (basically the food that caveman ate). I just found her insistence on her way as the BEST way to be fascinatingly horrible. However, I found most of the quirky family bonding rituals – such as synchronized family disrobing right down to the underwear – to be really refreshing. Those moments I thought bizarre definitely made me think of my own family and wonder what wacky practices we are accepting of and even proud of.
Did I mention that Tamara gives birth to a baby with branches as arms? I guess that while I was watching the performance, I was too intrigued by the already abnormal Jenkins-Laurence family to even see this as a freakish thing. I found this baby a tad mysterious, but I did find myself laughing at the visual and the really thoughtful puppetry. Only after I walked out onto frigid 6th Avenue did I start thinking about that baby. The answer to raising this leafy creature could not be found within Tamara’s inflexible ideas about the perfect family. For me, after the show that baby grew to be the first crack into this family, shining light into their world.
The moments that the characters were not in scenes but merely involved in transitions were my personal favorites. The family and Belinda, the goofy interloper, have a perfectly conditioned way of going about moving from scene to scene. It reminded me of the vigorous, brisk high-knee jog that many of us know we should be doing 30 minutes a day. I kept associating the task with parents who force their kids to listen to Beethoven with the hope that it’ll improve their kindergarteners future SAT scores. *shudder* I found every second of BRANCHED provocative.