Dividing the Estate – An Atlanta Theater Fans Review

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Tess Malis Kincaid and Mary Lynn Owen in Dividing the Estate. Photo by BreeAnne Clowdus

Tess Malis Kincaid and Mary Lynn Owen in Dividing the Estate. Photo by BreeAnne Clowdus

What do you get when an eccentric family tries to decide the future of their large estate? A hilarious situation that will have you smiling from start to finish.

Written by Horton Foote, Dividing the Estate, now playing at Theatrical Outfit, follows the Gordon family as they attempt to claim their inheritance even though their mother is still alive and well. The estate, while declining due to a recession, still holds much value, but each family member has a different idea about how it should be handled.

Set in 1987 in a fictional town in Texas, this southern family has its quirks. Mary Jo (Tess Malis Kincaid) wants to live a lavish lifestyle, and she needs the money to sustain it after her husband’s real estate career stalls in the economy. She wants to divide the estate and has an ally in her brother Lewis (Bart Hansard), who has gambling debt and special circumstances that requires thousands of dollars to remedy.

On the other side, their sister Lucille (Marianne Hammock), their nephew Son (Scott Warren), and their mother (Mary Lynn Owen) want to keep the estate intact. For them, the family heritage is too closely aligned with the property to sell it and divide the assets. However, there is a current tax bill and an impending inheritance tax that has Son understanding his sibling’s point of view.

The situation of the family feels extremely contemporary as the family ponders the recession and the rise of the service economy in America. Foote’s clever writing works well as the serious issues are counter balanced by the absurd situations the family finds itself in as jealousy and sibling rivalry fuel the fire. The characters are rich and the dialogue is filled with sarcastic quips, creating a fast-paced play.

Directed by Tom Key, the show boasts some of Atlanta’s most well-known talent, and they do not disappoint. It couldn’t have been better cast. Each one brings a unique aspect and vivid detail to the his or her character, creating a captivating performance.

As Stella Gordon, Mary Lynn Owen successfully plays the matriarch of the family, and by the end of the play, she has the audience forgetting about the fact that she is much younger than the character. In role of the fiery Mary Jo, Kincaid shines and balances well with real-life husband Mark Kincaid, who plays Bob. Her zeal to make sure her family continues to exist as it is has draws a strong contrast to Hammock’s amiable and eager-to-please Lucille. But it is Hansard’s Lewis that gives the show heart. His comedic timing is spot on, and his charm allows the harsh character to be likeable.

A bittersweet comedy, Dividing the Estate features incredible talent in a solid production. The play runs through April 20, 2014 at Theatrical Outfit in downtown Atlanta. For tickets and more information, please visit the theater’s website. The show’s runtime is about two and a half hours with an intermission.

– Kenny Norton