The Humperdink Family Reunion

Stacey Hallal at the Hollywood Theater, 41st and NE Sandy, 233-5798, Fri-Sat 9 pm, through November 15, $10

T he Humperdink Family scrapbook is filled with pages of Christmas lipstick, hysterical fits, and heart-shaped birthday cakes. You can see the family resemblance in every red-eyed, decapitating snapshot. The family writes its history with expressions, memories, and dysfunctional love for one another. Our favorite families (the Bradys, the Cosbys, the Tenenbaums) have taught us that blood is thicker than water, but the Humperdink family proves that neurosis is thicker than a blood clot.

Starring as the entire Humperdink family is All Jane No Dick member Stacy Hallal, who magically summon each character through schizophrenic tricks. The Humperdink family lives between Portland and Prineville, in that aluminum-sided universe known as White Middle America. Carpenters songs play from the Muzak box, and punk rock plays through sullen teenage headphones. Everywhere there are good people, good citizens, and God-loving goody-goodies with the blackest of family secrets. Like any good WASP family reunion, the family skeletons are clawing through the closet doors, running amok, and dancing nude over the family dinner.

Hallal conveys the anxious tension of strained family ties with comic authority and creativity. By turns the actress self-replicates, passing on a manic intensity to each of her progeny. A prepubescent space-case inhabits a memory-repressing climate where children play Candyland and play Doctor with the same fantastic imagination. A Paxil-addled divorcee quakes with the tears of a broken-hearted trophy wife. A stroke-victim Grandpa stands in a corner, wearing a Shriner fez, spouting delirious ramblings. Hallal seems less like she is remembering lines than she is channeling characters from her own family, amplifying them with improvisational charms.

Hallal observes (ingeniously) that despite efforts to set themselves apart from their eccentric family members, the Humperdinks all know that they share the same twisted family tree. The family is portrayed in each stage of life, from the first screaming moments of life to the sunset years of senility. Each character is a song unto his or her own self, and when they interweave, battle, and play, they become part of greater entity. The Humperdink Family Reunion is part Thanksgiving dinner, part Family Feud, and altogether a celebration of inescapable, genetically encoded madness. TOUSSAINT PERRAULT

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