Phoenix Theatre Presents Brilliant, Angsty Tribes Through Sunday

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See also: Maple and Vine from Scottsdale's Theatre Artists Studio Is New and Sneakily Provocative

The execution: Tribes marks my first visit inside Phoenix Theatre's new Black Box space. The gorgeous lobby, bar, and patio remodel lead to a space that, depending how it's configured, can feel cramped and cheap with imperfect sightlines.

But once you're settled in your seat, it's cozy, engaging, and furnished with all the technical bells and whistles necessary to support a broad range of theater. (And it can be configured different ways, so I hope we get to see that as seasons pass -- otherwise the wobbly railings and folding chairs are in there to no apparent effect.)

Eric Beeck's set is simply gorgeous, and it hints at the symbolic nature of some of the parallels that will play out by the time the show is over. The furniture and appliances are a cheerful, messy yet harmonious mix of colors, style, and materials, the way you'd like to think of your own family, maybe: individuals with their own quirks and talents, cohabiting to function as something greater than the sum of its parts.

But then you see the books. So many books. Billy's cruelly intellectual, hyperverbal family isn't simply fond of words the way academic people are, the way some British people (a bit more than corresponding Americans) are. They rely on language -- language each of them strictly defines on his or her own terms -- the way they rely on oxygen, literally choking when they can't say what they wish.

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Julie has written for the Night & Day events calendar section since 2005. As a student at Arizona State, she received the Glendon and Kathryn Swarthout Creative Writing Award and the Theatre Medallion of Merit.
Contact: Julie Peterson