Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 8, 2024

Review: Great Barrington Public Theater, "Survival of the Unfit"

Great Barrington Public Theater, Great Barrington, MA
July 6 - July 21, 2024
by Suzanne Wells

“Survival of the Unfit,” penned by Oren Safdie and directed by Matthew Penn, is not your typical “boy meets girl, falls in love, and lives happily ever after” story. The play shatters the mold of conventional romance with a comedic glimpse into a seemingly flawless, yet deeply flawed family dynamic.

Setting the stage, Samuel has invited his new girlfriend, Mallory, to dine with his parents. The parents, who appear to see only the flaws in their son, are convinced there must be something wrong with the girl. While his father, John, is more than willing to accept her shortcomings, his mother, Shirley, is ruthless in her scrutiny.

Carolyn Hennesy’s depiction of Shirley is outstanding as she embodies the role of critical, over-protective mother. The catalyst for unearthing all Mallory’s secrets, Hennesy’s relentless probing ignites a series of revelations that spiral into a dramatic unmasking of her own concealed indiscretions.

Vincent Randazzo portrays Samuel, a middle-aged, balding, man crushed by his parents’ low expectations. Randazzo captures the essence of a son beleaguered by criticism, both overt and insidious. His nuanced performance subtly hints at an evolving tension. 

In contrast, Sarah Keyes as Mallory, is a beautiful, educated woman from a wealthy family exuding confidence and a subtle dramatic flair. Keyes’ dynamic interpretation keeps the audience captivated, as they ponder what draws her to Samuel.

Daniel Gerroll, as John, is the epitome of dry humor, his timely asides accentuating the underlying imperfections of a long-married couple. His delivery is impeccable with each jest and costume change adding a layer of levity to the unfolding drama.

Scenic design by Juliana von Haubrich creates a middle-class abode that balances lived-in warmth with meticulous order. The walls are lined with impressionist paintings, and family photos. Books, sculptures, and drink cart create a lived-in feel while maintaining an air of everything-in-its-place perfection.

“Survival of the Unfit” is a comedic exploration of the human condition delving into the complexities of insecurity, self-doubt, and fear, which when acknowledged and accepted, become the threads that weave a tapestry of human connection and forge enduring bonds.