REVIEW by Willard Manus

"Cruel is the strife of brothers." Aristotle's aphorism rings true yet again in Daisy Foote's BHUTAN, now in its West Coast premiere at Rogue Machine. The family in question lives in Tremont, New Hampshire, a grim working-class town whose main employer is a state prison. Mary (powerhouse performance by Ann Colby Stoking) is the matriarch of the family. Widowed in middle-age, she is a tough, hard-drinking woman with a pragmatic outlook on life. She knows she's blue-collar and hard-up, but doesn't bitch about it. On the contrary, she's proud of her class and has no illusions about escaping it.

Not so her teenaged children, Frances and Warren (played, respectively, by the talented Tara Windley and Marco Naggar). Frances, having been turned on to serious books and music by her mentor, a cultured (and unseen) woman named Mrs Potemkin, dreams of putting provincial Fremont behind her and forging a more exciting life in a better place (symbolized by the Bhutan of the play's title). Warren dreams of moving up in life by marrying his rich girlfriend.
Mary rips into both of them for their foolish, unrealistic expectations. When they fight back and begin to defy her, she explodes with rage and begins to bully them unmercifully (for their own good, she believes). The resulting--and eventually tragic--family conflict lies at the heart of Foote's kitchen-sink drama (spot-on set by Mark Guirguis).

BHUTAN is well-directed by Elina de Santos and features an excellent ensemble cast (which also includes Tracie Lockwood as Sara, Mary's lecherous sister).

Rogue Machine (in Theatre Theater), 5041 Pico Blvd. 855-585-5185 or