The Family Mascot, at Cafe Voltaire
In her one-woman show, Kathryn Farley has a lot to say about growing up in an alcoholic family: about the diminished emotional relationships, the cycles of blame and guilt, the frustration of trying to get family members to realize how they contribute to the whole damn dysfunctional mess. Unfortunately, Farley does not seem to have the skills as a writer or performer to make what she knows interesting theater.
Conceived as a presentation by the self-deluded author of a singularly unhelpful self-help book called "Side by Side: The Traits of a Successful Family," The Family Mascot depends for much of its humor on the fact that Farley recommends various unhealthy coping strategies--massive doses of denial, for instance--as a way to have a happy family. But her wit is so dry and understated that what seemed funny on the page (Farley quotes herself assiduously in her press packet) seems serious onstage, a quality accentuated by her lackluster performing style.
Since almost none of Farley's humor comes through, we're left with an evening's worth of useless bromides intercut with painful family memories recounted as if they were real knee-slappers.