Straight Faced Lies

Straight Faced Lies

Author: Mark Jason Williams

Description: At the Ryans' Thanksgiving celebration, there's nothing to fear but family itself.
Year Written/Copyrighted: 2013
Date Added: 5/24/2013
Content Advisory: Strong language, sexual situations
Keywords: Characters are Mostly Married/With Families · Comedy · Coming of Age · Crime · Death and the Afterlife · Drama · Dysfunctional Families · Families · Gay and Lesbian · Grief and Mourning · Naturalism/Realism · Philosophy · Romance · Sex · Social Issues
This play is in the following collections: Planet Connections 2013
1 Act, 85 Minutes
3 Females, 3 Males
Read an excerpt

NOTE: Straight Faced Lies is fully protected by copyright law and is subject to royalty. All inquiries concerning production, publication, reprinting or use of this play in any form should be addressed to

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From the Author:

Families fascinate me. I think it's pretty incredible that, despite fundamental differences, families can share the same cast of characters: the "good" child, the black sheep, a mother who feels abandoned, a father who isn't around as much as he should be...

The family dynamic always makes for great theater. Put a bunch of people with distinct personalties in a room together, and watch the blood boil. And, is there any greater conversation than what we talk about at the dinner table?

But the trick, I think, is to not lose sight of the individuals who comprise a family. Drawing on inspiration from Death of a Salesman, Other Desert Cities and August: Osage County, Straight Faced Lies is about six people who are trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in. Add the pressure of Thanksgiving to the mix, and you have a show that explores what we do for ourselves vs. what we force ourselves to do for others.

I wrote Straight Faced Lies because I wanted to create an authentic, hilarious, and powerful drama about the impact our loved ones have on us, and the way we interact with others because of it. It's really a play for everyone. Especially if you've ever had a bad Thanksgiving, or wished you were adopted.

A Note from the Editor:

Straight Faced Lies received the award for Outstanding Script-Full Length at the 2013 Planet Connections Theatre Festivity.

More Plays by Mark Jason Williams:

Original Production Information

Straight Faced Lies will make its world premiere as part of the 2013 Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, playing the Robert Moss Theater from June 2 to the 22, with the following cast and crew:

Cathy: Linda Blackstock
James: Dan Hilt
Melissa: Hannah Logan Wolfe
Marie: Ann Farthing
Kip: Josh Krebs
Joe: Thom Christensen

Director: Melissa Skirboll
Stage Manager: Sunjo Hendricks

ITN Review by Martin Denton

Straight Faced Lies, Mark Jason Williams' new play premiering at Planet Connections Theatre Festivity 2013, is about a family Thanksgiving dinner. The word dysfunctional needs to be in that last sentence: it can go in front of "family," "Thanksgiving," or "dinner." Just don't put it in front of "play"—because this work is extremely well written: one of those vivid, larger-than-life, happy-sad tragicomedies where our emotions turn on a dime as the characters battle each other and, more fundamentally, themselves.

It begins in a flower shop on the night before Thanksgiving. James has come in a few minutes before closing to buy flowers for his mom's dinner table. We discover quickly that Kip, the salesman, knows James well. Very well. He wants to see James tonight. James needs to tend to his family. Kip wants to get invited to Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. James denies that there's anything going on between them.

It's a great scene (you can read it over at Indie Theater Now) and it hooked me immediately. Even though, as we'll discover, it only hints at the drama and trauma and humor that lay ahead, it's the prefect entry into the world of Williams' play.

I don't really want to tell you a whole lot more. This is definitely a piece you'll want to check out for yourself, at the Festivity (through June 22) or online at Indie Theater Now, especially if you're interested in tracing the great American Family Drama from the days of another Williams (Tennessee) through the works of Inge and Albee right up to the more contemporary incarnations of Tracy Letts and Richard Greenberg. This Williams (Mark Jason) spins his tale of archetypal mother, son, daughter, sister, and long-lost father with equal parts compassion, wit, and danger. It's a play where a gun makes a sudden appearance, as do the cops; where booze flows along with vitriol and barely repressed anger and regret; where everybody has a secret or two.

Melissa Skirboll has directed Straight Faced Lies with economy and verve. Her fine cast inhabit their roles intelligently, with perhaps the most purely enjoyable performance coming from Ann Farthing as the widowed aunt Marie and the most purely likable one delivered by Thom Christensen as Joe, boyfriend to daughter Melissa and least embroiled in the complicated bitter politics of this family. As the core family members, Linda Blackstock (Cathy, the mother), Danny Hilt (James, the son), and Hannah Logan Wolfe (Melissa, the daughter) exhibit remarkable chemistry and are able to make each of these folks an individual we can utterly empathize and sympathize with, notwithstanding the stuff we learn about them. As Kip, the man who just wants James to love him, Josh Krebs paints a rich, faceted portrait of possibly deliberately unrequited love.

This will definitely emerge as a highlight of this year's Festivity, and I wish it continued life beyond.

reviewed at the 2013 Planet Connections Theatre Festivity