Family Values is a darkly comedic thriller, about two brothers desperate to escape the Mafia to which they have been connected their whole lives. After finishing their last job, they have retreated to their isolated childhood home in the Florida Everglades – when in the middle of a storm, a strange couple arrive. Are these newcomers connected to the mob? Can the brothers escape their past?
As the lights go up, the audience is presented with a living room. A man enters and pours himself a drink; sitting on the sofa, he does not see another rain-soaked man enter. Within moments, they’re rolling around on the floor fighting. A strange reunion for brothers perhaps, but then these brothers have had a trying time.
Ivan Comisso and Federico Moro are first-rate as the bickering pair, Liam and Trent, and the chemistry between the two holds the whole play together. It is the relationship between the brothers that provides a great deal of the humour. They live by a code – literally made up of numbered rules – and at one point their argument descends into them throwing these numbers at one another, much to the amusement of the audience and the bafflement of their guests.
The brothers are ably supported by the bright and breezy strange couple; Virginia Byron as the dominating May and Tino Orsini as the bumbling Frank. The couple barely manage one coherent story before they trip themselves up with the next, again to the amusement of the crowd.
The play is very physical, with a number of fights, and the choreography is excellent; there were numerous gasps from the audience as blows were dealt, and the production does not shy away from blood and torture.
While the plot does have a resolution, some characters’ identities remain ambiguous to the end. This is, indeed, the point. But it feels a little frustrating that it isn't all tied up – or perhaps it can be seen as a confirmation that you can never truly escape your family, no matter how hard you try.
Overall Family Values is slickly-written and full of humour, even as it tackles themes of violence, lies and family. It is well-staged and the actors are universally excellent. Highly recommended.