It takes a minute to figure out the Cavendish family tree, so let me try to lay it out for you. Head of the family Fanny Cavendish hasn't acted for two years due to her failing health, while her deceased husband's portrait looms large over the family. Her playboy son Tony is off in Hollywood, acting in pictures, and returns home in a rush on the heels of yet another scandal. Fanny's daughter Julie is the toast of Broadway, while Julie's daughter Gwen is just starting her promising career. Fanny's brother Herbert is always on the lookout for the play that will make him a star, and his wife Kitty is determined not to be left out. Add into this family group longtime family manager Oscar, Julie's old flame Gil, her trainer McDermott, Gwen's beau Perry, and two hard-working servants, and you've got more than three hours of chaos and zany interactions! The three Cavendish women are at different stages in their lives and careers, but all of them are at a crossroads where they need to decide if a life in the theater is still what they want. They have good intentions of trying to live "a normal life," but once bitten by the theater bug, it's hard to be free of it (as I know quite well).
The entire play takes place in the Cavendish family's elaborate New York City home. The massive two-story set includes a grand stairway and a window looking out on the city. Shelves are filled with odd accoutrements of the theater, including masks, skulls, actual theater seats, and a suit of armor. As the play progresses, the back walls of the set are raised, revealing even more fascinating stuff stashed behind the scenes, creating a weird sort of meta-theater vibe. Similarly, there are some interesting things done with lighting effects, in which spotlights are visible on stage, perhaps saying that even when the Cavendishes aren't on stage, they're still on stage. Perhaps their whole life is a performance (scenic design by Marte Johanne Ekhougen, lighting design by Bradley King).
|the cast of The Royal Family (photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp)