By Abby Dotterer
Parents are usually perceived as loving, caring people who can do no wrong — at least to their children. But what happens when you learn your father, the one who changed your diapers and went to each of your football games, wasn’t who you thought he was?
“Appropriate,” written by Princeton University alumnus Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, is a play that follows an Arkansas family who gathers to divvy up their recently deceased father’s estate. The line delivery sometimes felt cheesy and over-performed, and the storyline is as unresolved as the issues it represents.
Siblings Toni, Bo, and Franz come to the house that was formerly a plantation a day before it is sold at auction. They also prepare for an estate sale by going through their father Ray’s belongings. Ray was a hoarder, and the set design reflected it perfectly. Lamp shades, stacks of magazines, books and other objects were thrown around the room. During one scene, the room was so cluttered that a fishing pole fell over when an actress was walking nearby it. The set also included subtle hints of the father’s racial beliefs: guns in the same cabinet along with a Confederate flag.
After finding a photo album with multiple pictures of lynched black people, jars of human organs, and a Ku Klux Klan hood, the three question who their father was when he wasn’t around his children.
Bo’s wife openly states that she believes Ray was a racist because of how he would label her as his son’s “Jew wife.” But the sister, Toni, has a different opinion. She believes her father was a loving, caring man and he “used the wrong word from time to time, but that was just his generation.”
While finding Ray’s eerie items, the family focuses on other problems, like Franz’s return to the family after a decade. The family also pores over his drug addiction and a child sexual assault case from his past. This to me, represents how the United States pushes racial issues under the rug. It also shows how children refuse to believe their parents have a different life outside of them.
After multiple arguments, the whole family leaves the house because they don’t want to deal with the problem anymore. The production ends with the house shaking and items inside falling all over while you hear children giggling. It is unclear if this is the natural byproduct of the house’s deterioration, or the actions of tortured spirits moving objects around.