There’s something deceptively familiar about the first scene of Young Jean Lee’s play, Straight White Men, receiving its West Coast premiere at the Kirk Douglas Theater. It opens with an American family gathered together for Christmas. The three adult Norton brothers spend a lot of time horsing around their dad’s living room in flannel jammies, re-enacting childhood pranks, recalling old nicknames and play-fighting with one another as though they’re young boys again. It’s the kind of reunion play whose lines often begin, “Remember the time . . .” So we know, with all this holiday cheer and familial merriment, that things are about to go to hell.
Sure enough, eldest son Matt (Brian Slaten) abruptly begins to cry as the brothers and their father eat a Chinese take-out dinner. Matt’s got a secret but this is 2015, so veteran theatergoers raised on the social-issue dramas of the late 20th century surmise it’s not that Matt is gay or that he has an incurable disease – especially since we also know this 90-minute play was written and directed by a New York playwright who is the reigning queen of experimental theater.