Writer-director Derek Ahonen gives family dysfunction both a sacred and profane spin in Amerissiah. And while this scathing and frequently hilarious portrait of the American Dream gone horribly wrong ultimately veers into mawkish sentimentality, this lopsided theatrical experience is truly thought-provoking.
Ahonen leaves nary a vice, trauma, or scandal untouched in his play, which unfolds in a tiny Bronx apartment where the now-wealthy Ricewaters have returned to say goodbye to eldest son Barry (Matthew Pilieci), dying of cancer and convinced he’s the Messiah. But even if he is indeed the Second Coming, a claim only his pot-pushing hippy wife, Margie (Aysha Quinn), believes, there seems little hope of salvation for this contentious clan. That is, until the arrival of Carrie (Jennifer Fouche), who says she’s been psychically called by Barry from Missouri—making the Ricewaters reconsider not only Barry’s divine nature, but also their relationships.
Throughout, the writing in this Amoralists production is zestful, filled with scatological zingers and trippy non sequiturs, which the company delivers with gritty, though shrill, aplomb. Their work ensures laughter. It also forces theatergoers to contemplate the deeper meaning behind Ahonen’s screwy comedy, and almost makes the play’s unconvincing redemptive ending forgivable.