'Table 17!' portrays the awkward clashes of a hostile family
Table 17! is a play about the volatility of "black sheep" at wedding receptions, with a table of clashing misfits in the back corner – including poisonous aunts, drunk uncles and disapproving sisters – edging closer to spilling some serious family secrets before the day's done.
With a premise based on real events, the stage should be set and primed for some outrageous madcap shenanigans, and yet, it just... doesn't happen. This isn't to say that the cast can't be applauded for their efforts – the team of actors take to their parts passionately and tackle the material to the best of their ability – but there's nothing for them to really do except trade barbs and tired one-liners until an abrupt climax. There's potential here, albeit unfortunately misguided.
The beauty of character-driven comedies is in watching relatable, well-crafted personas chip away at their counterparts' masks, forcing them all to address the hidden beasts within. Table 17! certainly attempts this, but you can see the strings of the script far too easily – the characters tell you all you need to know about themselves in the first five minutes of their introduction, then pace time by calling each other dickheads until some pre-designated event eventually throws a switch to progress the story (usually involving someone's sexual promiscuity). There are a lot of arguments for arguments' sake, and dialogue often drifts into stilted "stand-up monologue" territory for something that's purported to be a natural and relatable experience.
The story sadly confines everyone into one-dimensional digestibles, boiled down to a simple stereotype like "the stuck-up", "the hen-pecked" or "the sleazebag". The show definitely relishes the inappropriateness of its inhabitants – and there are some scattered chuckles to be had – but abrasiveness doesn't automatically elicit humour, relatability or even shock. Sometimes, it's just bland and mean-spirited. You'll hear terms like "bitch" a lot; it will become repetitive and annoying. "Offensive" is fine, in context, but "boring" is a fairly grave sin.
All criticism aside, the discomfort is accurate – Table 17! could be a cathartic chuckle for anyone that's experienced dysfunction at a family function. We've all been there. It just takes a special kind of person to want to go there.