There’s something special about an argument between siblings.
No other type of altercation conjures up that same breed of no-holds-barred viciousness, which has the ability to transform even the most composed of us into a ill-tempered child as soon as the first insult is hurled.
This is the object of study in Appropriate, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ play which has just opened at the Donmar Warehouse.
It follows the three Lafayette siblings, who have been summoned along with their partners and children to their father’s house, a former plantation in Arkansas, to divide up his estate after he dies.
After making an unexpected discovery which suggests he was a closet racist, they argue as only siblings can about who their father really was, mercilessly tearing open old wounds as they go.
This is an American family drama in the style of Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams, expertly steered by Monica Dolan as hard-boiled older sister Toni, who grows increasingly weary of the meaningless hippie platitudes of her youngest brother and the helicopter parenting of her neurotic sister-in-law as the story goes on. Credit must also be given for inventive swearing and a brilliantly choreographed fight scene.
The play raises some big questions around how to address the legacy of slavery in the Deep South, and challenges the idea that racism can be excused if its perpetrator was ‘from a different time’.
Mostly, though, it is a hilarious story about two brothers and a sister tearing chunks off each other.