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The House That Jack Built

This past weekend the Indiana Repertory Theatre hosted the world premier of playwright-in-residence James Still’s new production, The House That Jack Built. A family converges in a cozy home in Vermont for Thanksgiving dinner and as is to be expected with the holidays, emotions run high and past grievances and grief lay just beneath the tender surface.

I’ve been a fan of James Still’s work for years, but this production truly rises above anything I’d yet seen. He has an incredible talent for writing characters that are completely unique, yet somehow also completely relatable. That contradictory principle makes the people in his plays unforgettable. Overbearing mothers or bickering spouses could become clichés, but in Still’s plays they never are. Their flaws and connections to each other always run deeper than that and this play in particular, is full of beautifully complicated characters.  

Jack, the title character, is an enigma that we never meet, though he shaped the lives of everyone in the play. He is a reminder of all the lives we touch, with or without realizing it. I can’t single out a performer in the five person cast because each of them: Christopher Allen, Joseph Foronda, Patricia Hodges, Deirdre Lovejoy, and Jenny McKnight Jules, were so excellent in their very different roles.
The intimate set lends itself well to the 100 minute production. There is no intermission and conversation never lags. Comic moments break tense ones as the banter rolls on. The witty back and forth tumbles from casual chitchat to distant memories capturing the atmosphere of a true family get-together from the opening lines.

It’s rare to find a play that blends humor and heartbreak so seamlessly and to find performances and dialogue that move you deeply. In The House That Jack Built audience members find all of those things and more. It is a play about discovering who you are, because of and in spite of your family. It is about the ties that bind us together, even though they also cause us pain. And most of all, it is about the importance of family, both the one we are born with and the one we make along the way.

Please don’t miss your chance to see this remarkable show.

Don't Miss the Show

The Indiana Repertory Theatre is located at 140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, one-half block west of the Circle Center Mall between northbound Illinois St. and southbound Capitol Ave. "The House That Jack Built" runs until Sunday, Nov. 25 on IRT's Upper Stage. Times for performances can be found at or by calling the IRT box office at (317) 635-5252. To purchase tickets call (317) 635-5252 or order online at

*Photos courtesy of Zach Rosing