Corner of Hacienda’ serves up a strange cast of characters and a side of mescaline

Brandon Alan McClenahan and Felicia Taylor play vivid characters who say some crazy stuff.
Photo: Bill Hughes
Jacob Coakley

Three and a half stars

Corner of Hacienda February 20-22, 27, 28 & March 1, 8 p.m.; February 23 & March 2, 2 p.m.; $16-$20. Art Square Theatre, cockroachtheatre.com.

Ernie Curcio’s Corner of Hacienda is a love song to Las Vegas that’s tinged with more than a little anger, mocking the mores of Curcio’s hometown even while celebrating them. Francis (played by Brandon Alan McClenahan in Cockroach Theatre’s production at Art Square) and his brother Elliot (Ryan Reason), a minor league hoodlum who’s hoping for a call up to the bigs, live alone in their grandmother’s house, which they inherited when she died. Francis can’t leave the house, constantly wears his grandmother’s robe and wants nothing more than a turkey for Thanksgiving.

This dream is first interrupted by the unexpected appearance of returning neighbor Tuzza (Felicia Taylor), a childhood friend who has grown into a fetching if slightly unhinged fashionista, and then by his Aunt Carol (Kim Glover), along with her husband Bilp (Scott McAdam) and daughter Penny (Mikey Phillips). When Elliot’s friend Carlitos (Jason Niño) cooks up a turkey with some mescaline stuffing, things get really weird.

Except they don’t. While Curcio’s characters are incredibly vivid and bold, the whole second act is a bit of a deus ex machina, allowing characters to vent about their regrets and self-pity without ever actually taking action. People are painted with love and an eye for detail, and they say some crazy stuff, but actual conflict seems missing—which you almost don’t mind, because watching them is so entertaining. Niño’s Carlitos is a live wire; Phillips is practically unrecognizable as the tomboy Penny, who turns into a silky smooth showgirl; McAdam embraces a thoroughly detestable character with bravado, bringing him vividly to life; McClenahan brings his wounded charm to Francis; and Maria Militair as Mama practically steals the show with her old-school Italian-American patois.

The character of Carol is asked to undergo a series of humiliations, which may make it hard for Glover to truly inhabit the character, and Taylor is a little too grounded as Tuzza, when a more manic-pixie-dream-girl-on-speed flavor is needed.

Bryan Todd’s direction is light, moving the action smoothly over Chad Burn’s incredible set. But in the end the emotional arc of the play feels a little too pat, without much sense of escalation or exploration of relationships. There’s plenty of showmanship here, and humor to spare, but not quite as much emotional depth as there should be.

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