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Capsule Reviews

Appropriate

By Ben Togut

On the occasion of their father’s death, three siblings return to a dilapidated plantation home where they must battle with dysfunctional relationships and their own demons in Appropriate, now playing at the Hayes Theater. Returning to the Broadway stage, Sarah Paulson takes no prisoners. As Toni, Paulson is unrelenting yet vulnerable, delivering a masterclass in emotional volatility, especially as tensions run high in the second act. 

You would be hard-pressed to find a weak link in the cast of Appropriate. Under the direction of Lila Neugebauer, the actors shine both individually and as a whole, tackling Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ tragicomic narrative of a dysfunctional family with both humor and heart. Michael Esper delivers an affecting performance as Franz, estranged and desperate to reconcile with his siblings over the harm he caused them in the past, while Elle Fanning is eccentric yet grounded as his younger girlfriend River.

Another highlight of Appropriate is its sound design by Bray Poor and Will Pickens. Throughout the show, an anxious chorus of cicadas pervades the theater, overwhelming audiences with the feeling that something terrible is about to happen. Just as impressive is scenic design by dots, especially in the play’s last five minutes, when rapid set changes take place as the plantation house falls into disarray and is overrun by vegetation. Together, these elements add to the play’s dramatic tension, creating an environment of dread that leaves audiences on the edge of their seats.

A riveting portrait of family dysfunction and prejudice, Appropriate is not to be missed.