The idea for the black comedy Your Family Sucks first came to local playwright (and frequent Houston Press contributor) Abby Koenig some ten years ago. When Horse Head Theatre Co. was scheduling its new season, Koenig dusted it off and finished a script for it in three weeks. Horse Head mounts the world premiere in early December.
The story follows a young woman who's obsessed with the world's biggest Hebrew-pop star. In order to get him to notice her, she gets her family on his favorite game show (think a truly dysfunctional Family Feud). The trouble is her family is a little screwy. Her dad is an alcoholic, her mom is bi-polar, her big sister is sexually confused, and she's, well, she's not only obsessively in love with someone she's never met, she's bulimic. And yes, it's supposed to be funny. "That's the whole thing, because the dad is an alcoholic and the mom is bi-polar, you think, 'That's not funny.' But life is so sad that it has to be funny sometimes," Koenig tells us.
"Much of the play is the girl trying to convince her family they should go on the show," Koenig says. "Eventually, they all come up with very selfish reasons as to why they want to go on the game show. Then they get to the show and everything just sort of falls apart."
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The questions on the game show are about the other people in the family. "For example, what would your mom think is her best dish to make?" says Koenig. "And when you have a family that doesn't talk, where everything is built on lies and nobody knows each other very well, it's hard to get those answers right.
Koenig says that while the characters in Your Family Sucks each have qualities that she's seen in family and friends, they are, in fact, fictional. "The characters are very loosely based on a childhood that I somehow romanticized. I don't think it happened that way, but that's how I've come to remember it. It would be hard to say, 'Oh, that character is based on Abby.' It's more like there are bits and pieces in each one that are similar to me and people I know."
One thing the audience can infer is that "Abby comes from crazy. You can walk away [from the show] and know that's absolutely true statement," she laughs.
Your Family Sucks runs December 6 through December 22. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and December 10. War'hous Visual Arts Studios, 4715 Main Street. For information, visit the company's website. $20.