October 29, 2011

"The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" isn't as Agonizing nor Ecstatic as it Aims to Be

Cynics have long said that dying young can be a career boost in show business.  But I doubt that even the most sardonic of them meant that the good fortune would redound on someone other than the deceased. That, however, is what has happened for Mike Daisey, whose latest show The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs opened at the Public Theater just two weeks after Apple’s founder succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the relatively young age of 56.

Daisey has long been a downtown darling. (“I feel like I’m crashing a party for the self-designated hip,” my theatergoing buddy Bill said as a hipster couple in tight jeans and leather jackets settled into the seats in front of us.)  But it’s unlikely this show would have gotten the attention it has if Jobs hadn’t died. And I feel kind of ambivalent about that.

I met and even once lunched with Jobs back in the late ‘90s. Like most people, I came away somewhat dazzled by his charisma. As he did with numerous journalists, he and I exchanged a few emails and phone calls over the years. The last one I remember was a brief call soon after he’d returned to work following the surgery that we now know he put off too long. I gingerly asked about his health, he briskly brushed it off and then we got down to business talk.

You couldn’t even remotely call us friends and yet I felt shaken when I heard that Jobs had died. I also found myself feeling uneasy about the play, whose previews were scheduled to start the following week.   

And I clearly wasn’t the only one thinking that way. For Daisey, who both created and performs his one-man critique of Job’s life and career, wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times defending the decision that the show would go on (click here to read what he wrote).

Ironically, it was Daisey, and not Jobs, who had originally drawn me to seeing The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. In recent years, Daisey has developed a following as a monologist in the Spalding Gray tradition. Like Gray, he sits alone on a stage behind a table and simply talks to his audiences for a couple of hours. And, as they did for Gray, people raved.

Since I’m not a big fan of one-man shows, I had missed Daisey’s earlier efforts but I stumbled across an essay he wrote about the regional theater movement and its trenchant analysis and unbridled anger so blew me away (click here to read it) that I promised myself I’d see him perform the next time he did anything in town.

What he’s now doing is a rumination on the human cost of our preoccupation with the latest  technology. Daisey, a self-described Apple fan-boy, alternates between a bio of Jobs and an account of his own trip to Shenzhen, the Chinese city where hundreds of thousands of workers labor under harsh conditions to create the products we all so crave.

Daisey, a short Buddha-shaped man dressed all in black, is an engaging storyteller—he’s got presence and he knows how to use his voice. And he’s often very funny, although he relies far too much on profanity to get laughs but, alas, that’s often what passes for wit nowadays.

The show’s technical values are intentionally minimal. Rock music blares before it begins.  Light strips turn on and off behind Daisey, sometimes to mark the end of a chapter in his story, but at other times, without apparent cause. The show clearly prizes content over style. 

The content is intentionally unsettling. Daisey talks about child workers whose 12 to 16 hour workdays doing repetitive tasks on assembly lines leave them physically deformed. About the near-slave wages they are paid. And about the ways in which efforts to help them have too often backfired.   

Life in Shenzhen is such hell that one factory there has draped itself with nets to cut down on suicides by workers who had begun flinging themselves off its roof. The moral of Daisey's tale seems to be that Jobs should have found a better way to get his jobs done.

It’s all so distressing that I began to wonder if I should even power up my iPhone after the show.  But despite the praise the show’s received (click here to read the StageGrade raves) Daisey’s revelations aren’t truly that revelatory since they've been published elsewhere and even Jobs has acknowledged that he made hard-hearted business decisions. 

Like Michael Moore, another professional cranky man, Daisey falls in love with his own self-righteousness and can’t get enough of it. So his harangue goes on too long.  But so has this review.  And so I’ll stop. 

October 26, 2011

"Milk Like Sugar" is a Bittersweet Treat

There’s an audience for Milk Like Sugar, the new play by Kirsten Greenidge that’s currently playing at Playwrights Horizons. But it's clearly not for everyone. About half way through this 100-minute drama about the precarious lives of black inner-city girls, the man sitting in front of me yawned so loudly that there couldn’t have been a person in the house—including the actors—who didn’t hear him. 

It was an unforgivably rude thing to do. His companion poked him in the ribs and the malcontent behaved for the rest of the performance. But he wasn’t the only one in the largely white and largely late-middle-aged audience who seemed antsy about what he was seeing onstage.  And that's a shame because while the play has its flaws it's worth seeing.

In these last few years since the Obamas move into the White House, a number of plays about African-Americans have popped up in major off-Broadway productions and even on the Great White Way, including The Mountaintop, which opened there two weeks ago, Stick Fly, which is scheduled to land in December and the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Clybourne Park, which is rumored to be coming to Broadway in the spring. 

But nearly all of those plays have dealt with middle-class or even affluent blacks, be it Martin Luther King, Jr. in The Mountaintop or the wealthy clan that summers on Martha’s Vineyard in Stick Fly. 

Milk Like Sugar deals with a different demographic, one closer to the characters in the 2009 movie “Precious.” Which is surprising.  For despite that movie’s relative success (it grossed around $50 million) stories about truly poor people of any color have largely disappeared from view in the popular culture.

So Playwrights Horizons, which has co-produced the show with Women's Project, deserves Brownie points for staging a play like Milk Like Sugar and for giving a young playwright like Greenidge a chance. Greenidge has written the play in a mix of poetic language and ghetto lingo that doesn’t always blend. And her characters aren’t as fully developed as they might be.  And yet, Milk Like Sugar is affecting.

Its main character is Annie, a newly-minted 16 year-old who is pretty and smart but struggling to believe that the world holds more for her than the sad lives she sees around her. The play’s title is an allusion to the powdered milk that poor people often drink because it’s cheaper than the fresh stuff.

Annie’s two best friends want her to join them in a pack to get pregnant because they think having babies will be fun, like having live dress-up dolls. Her mother, once herself a teen mom, has a dead-end job as an office cleaner and a fondness for Scotch. A classmate Annie befriends clings desperately but futilely to religion. Only Malik, the boy who is supposed to father her child, can envision a way out.

Director Rebecca Taichman, who sat just a few seats away from my stepdaughter Anika and me at the preview performance we attended, has directed with brio, although she’s far too fond of the symbolism in her stylized scene changes.

But Taichman has assembled a crackerjack cast of mainly twentysomething actors. Angela Lewis is sweet and convincing as Annie and Cherise Boothe and Nikiya Mathis are thoroughly enjoyable as the best friends, who provide most of the considerable humor that leavens the heavier parts of the play.

The veteran and Tony Award-winning actress Tonya Pinkins plays has taken over the role of the mother from Eisa Davis, who originated the part in an earlier production at the La Jolla Playhouse, and she has a ball with the role.

It all adds up to a show that resembles one of those Afterschool Specials that ABC used to air in the ‘70s and ‘80s.  I don’t mean that as a put-down. A lot of those shows dealt with important issues in a simple but sincere and affecting way.   

I suspect some of those old TV shows even changed lives. This play might do the same if only there were a way to get it to its target audience of young people grappling with many of these problems.  I bet there wouldn’t be a yawner in the bunch. 

October 22, 2011

Singing Hallelujah for "Sons of the Prophet"

The New York Times critic Charles Isherwood has declared that Stephen Karam’s new play Sons of the Prophet is “the first important new play of the fall season.” That’s quite a compliment since it comes from a man who’s been so cranky of late that he recently announced he would no longer review Adam Rapp’s plays because he so dislikes them. 

It’s a debatable stand for a critic to take and it’s been hotly debated (click here and here and here to read the back and forth). I’m still figuring out how I feel about that one but I'm in complete agreement with Isherwood on the Karam play, which opened this week at the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Laura Pels Theatre. 

Karam made a splash three years ago with Speech & Debate, a sly comedy about high school misfits dealing with sexual identify, online privacy and free speech that was the inaugural production of Roundabout Underground, which showcases the works of young playwrights and tries to draw young audiences (click here to read my review). 

Sons of the Prophet, a more ambitious work in every way, fulfills that earlier promise (click here to read a profile of the playwright). It's a terrific play and it's drawing young people too. The three people sitting next to me were 20somethings from France and a few seats away from them was a young retro-punker in a Mohawk.

The new play centers around Joseph Douaihy, a 29 year-old with a litany of problems that would make Job quake. Joseph’s widowed father has just died following a freakish car accident that is dividing their blue-collar town. His teenage brother is simultaneously obsessed with sex and St. Rafka, a martyr of the Lebanese Maronite Catholic Church the family attends. Their elderly uncle is inching inexorably towards the nursing home he dreads. 

Joseph himself, recently an Olympic hopeful, has developed strange symptoms that have not only derailed his running career but forced him to take a job as assistant to a wacky rich woman so that he can get health insurance.  And adding heartache to Joseph's existential injuries, the man he loves may be using him to get ahead in his own career.

The play's titular prophet is an allusion to the famous book by the Lebanese-American poet Khalil Gibran, to whom the Douaihy family is supposedly related.  And it’s easy to see the play as a  Gibran-like parable on suffering, as Isherwood does (click here to read his review) and as I did in a piece I did for TDF Stages on Santino Fontana who plays Joseph (click here to read it). 

But the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that Sons of the Prophet is a marvelous meditation on the responsibilities we bear for the people we love, for those we don’t and for society as a whole. That’s weighty stuff for a play, even one that runs 1 hour and 45 intermissionless minutes.  But, although Sons of the Prophet wobbles in spots, it bears the burden with true grace. That’s due in large part to Fontana’s graceful performance. 

Fontana has done fine work before as Algernon in the recent revival of The Importance of Being Earnest and as the older brothers in Billy Elliott and the aborted revival of Brighton Beach Memoirs. But he pushes into the top rank of young actors here. He is, by the way, also lovely in an interview and I was delighted to read yesterday that he's teaming up with the equally talented Bobby Steggert for a reading of the musical Yanks

But Fontana doesn't do it alone. Peter DuBois’s direction is also deft. And there's impressive work from a nimble seven-member supporting cast that includes the stage vet Joanna Gleason as the wacky boss and newcomer Chris Perfetti, making a sensational New York debut as the wisecracking younger brother. And Lizbeth Mackay threatens to walk away with the whole play in the moving final scene.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had such an all-around good evening in the theater.  The guy in the Mohawk seemed to like it too.

October 19, 2011

"We Are Here" Ends Up Nowhere

It’s not every young playwright who makes her New York debut at the Manhattan Theatre Club.  Or who has that play directed by the hot- director-of-the-moment Sam Gold. Or designed by the great-designer-for-all-seasons John Lee Beatty. Or performed by a cast of stage vets like Mark Blum, Amy Irving and the very good Jeremy Shamos and Hollywood up-and-comers like Oscar Isaac. 

Of course, Zoe Kazan, the author of the new play We Live Here, which opened last week at MTC, isn’t just any young playwright.  As the granddaughter of the legendary Elia Kazan, she’s theatrical royalty. And as a rising young actress whose performances in Come Back, Little Sheba, The Seagull and Angels in America have made her a critic’s darling, she’s an insider with clout and connections. (Click here to read a Q&A with her.) 

The truth of the matter is that it’s unlikely this play would have been produced—and certainly not in this way—if it had been submitted under any other name.

Kazan isn’t untalented.  But at 28, she’s a young playwright who has yet to figure out that a facility with natural-sounding dialog isn’t enough to sustain a play. The events in We Are Here are improbable and, as my theatergoing buddy Bill noted, all its conflict hinges on a not-so-surprising secret.

The action centers around the Batemans, an affluent Salingeresque family in which all the members are arty and witty on the surface and troubled and sad underneath. The play opens as they’re preparing for the elder daughter’s wedding that coming weekend. The festive mood is upturned when the younger daughter brings home an unexpected date whose previous relationship with the family stirs up memories of a past tragedy. 

Mom, dad, the daughters and their guys all wander around the big beautiful living room that Beatty has created and angst about the past 
and the future. Each gets a predictably cathartic moment. 

Not even Sam Gold, who has done such wonderful work with the plays of Annie Baker (a young playwright, whose plays actually deserve the kind of top-shelf treatment this one has gotten) is able to create much magic here. Gold keeps everyone moving but there’s only so much he can do to cover the holes in the plot and too many of the jokes land with a hollow thud.

An even more embarrassing silence greeted the abrupt ending of the play, which seemed as though the author had stopped in mid-thought to answer a phone call and then forgot that she needed to finish the idea. 

The audience at the performance Bill and I attended sat uneasily until the actors sheepishly shuffled out for the curtain call.  I took it as a  sign that Kazan probably shouldn’t give up her day job.

October 15, 2011

"Man and Boy" Isn't Ballsy Enough

There are at least three obvious reasons that may have prompted the Roundabout Theatre Company to revive Man and Boy, the 1963 drama by the British playwright Terence Rattigan, which opened at the American Airlines Theatre last Sunday.

The first is that this year marks the centenary of Rattigan’s birth and although he’s never been as big a name here in the U.S. as he is in England, theater lovers everywhere are suckers for nostalgia.

The second is that the play is about a disgraced financier and his son who tries to evade the heavy shadow his father has cast, which, even though the play is set during the 1930s and based on a scam artist of that period, parallels the story of the recent big-time swindler Bernie Madoff and his son Mark who committed suicide after his father’s downfall.

And the third is that the arrogant financier is just the kind of larger-than-life character that the larger-than-life actor Frank Langella is so great at sinking his teeth into.

At least those are the reasons that made both my husband K and I—big fans of Rattigan’s, bigger fans of Langella’s and always up for shows that make the connection between art and life—want to see Man and Boy.  But only one of us ended up having a satisfying evening.  And it wasn’t me.

Rattigan specialized in well-crafted melodramas such as The Browning Version, The Deep Blue Sea, Separate Tables and The Winslow Boy, in which upper-class Brits make the best of uncomfortable circumstances in stiff-upper-lip fashion. Movie versions of those plays pop up occasionally on AMC and are well worth putting on your Tivo wish list.

But Rattigan’s style of theater was muscled to the side in the ‘50s by the arrival of the "angry young man" plays lead by John Osborne’s Look Back In Anger, which the Roundabout is scheduled to revive in January at its smaller Laura Pels Theatre.

Rattigan continued writing until his death from cancer in 1997 but the later plays aren’t as memorable or as affecting.  Man and Boy flopped both in London and on Broadway, where it played just 54 performances in 1963.  

I wish the Roundabout had celebrated Rattigan with one of his better plays, like The Deep Blue Sea, which was given two major and critically-acclaimed revivals in England earlier this year.

One thing that makes Man and Boy standout, however, is that it’s one of the few times that Rattigan, who was gay when it was illegal to be open about it, includes an overt reference to homosexuality in a play. 

The scene in which he does it is the best in this production. Even though Maria Aitken, who has directed the show in somewhat prosaic fashion, emphasizes the comic at the expense of its sinister undertones. 

Still, Langella has a great time with the scene and with the rest of the play too (click here to listen to him talk about the role in a terrific NPR interview). But his performance never touched me. 

Nor did that of Adam Driver, a young actor whose earnest intensity seems to appeal to directors who have had him working steadily since he graduated from Juilliard two years ago (he’s been cast in Look Back in Anger too; click here to read more about him).  But, as is the case with his portrayal of the son here, Driver's performances often seem both undercooked and overwrought to me. 

And, as for the Madoff connection, neither the play nor this production of it offer any fresh insight into what makes financial egoists like the play's Gregor Antonescu or the real-life Bernie Madoff behave the way they do. 

Yet you might get a different picture if K were writing this post because he's the one who had a good time.  “All I ask is some good acting,” he said as we rehashed the show over dinner at Orso, hands-down the best place to eat in the theater district. Well, there’s no question that Langella is supplying that, I just wish he were doing it in a better play and in a more powerful production.

October 12, 2011

"The Lyons" Can't Roar Cause It's Toothless

People see plays for all kinds of reasons.  I was excited about The Lyons because I wanted to see what made Linda Lavin turn down chances to reprise her terrific performances in two high-profile Broadway shows— as the "Broadway Baby" singing Hattie in Follies and the deliciously wry Aunt Silda in Other Desert Cities—in favor of doing this off-beat, off-Broadway play, which opened at the Vineyard Theatre last night. Now, having seen it, that question is still a mystery to me.

Playwright Nicky Silver has concocted a shaggy dog tale about a dysfunctional family (is there any other kind in the theater) that is trying to deal with the fast-approaching death of its ill and hospitalized patriarch. They’re not handling it well.

The dad is pissed off that he's dying. The mom fantasizes about remodeling the family apartment and taking a new lover when he's gone.  The grown-up daughter, a recovering alcoholic, feels oppressed by family obligations and her gay brother has relationship issues of his own, which hijack the second act of the play. Against the backdrop of all this we've-seen-it-before angst, everyone trades the kind of quips that have become the lingua franca of sitcoms.

As is so often the case, the actors work hard to salvage the show.  They’re lead by Lavin, who summons up her considerable comedic skills to punch up the jokes and deepen the clichés (click here to read a Q&A in which she talks about why she decided to do the show).

Dick Latessa puts his trademark crotchetiness to valiant use as the dad and Kate Jennings Grant and Michael Esper do what they can with the siblings. But Brenda Pressley is underused as a nurse and Gregory Woddell is burdened with a character who seems to have wandered in from another play that Silver may have been working on.

The playwright was standing outside the theater and chatting with friends after the performance my theatergoing buddy Bill and I attended. And he seemed quite cheery and content about what we’d just seen onstage.  I was tempted to go over to him and ask for an explanation but good manners held me back. 

And it’s not just me.  The early buzz in the chat rooms wasn’t good and now that reviews are coming in, even fans of Silver's earlier plays are struggling to be supportive of this one (click here to read the NYTimes' lukewarm hurrah).  

Ironically, the Vineyard is one of the off-Broadway theaters that recently announced they were going to start charging premium prices for some seats. It’s a disheartening trend, made even worse when it’s being applied to a less-than premium play. 

October 8, 2011

Autumn, The Algonquin and Other Reveries

Not much seen this week—at least not that I can yet write about since I try to keep the opening night embargo that shows ask reviewers to observe.  Besides, it’s promising to be a beautiful fall weekend and so I’m going to go out and revel in it.  But before I do, I want to give a little shout-out to the Hotel Algonquin.

My husband K and I went there last night after seeing one of those shows about which I’ll be telling you later and it reminded me of how much I love the place. The Gonk, as my friends and I affectionately call it, is the home of the legendary Algonquin Round Table, where reporters, writers and the theater folk they hung around with gathered for lunch every day during the 1920s. And the hotel has celebrated artists ever since, at various times, offering discounted meals and even free rooms to some.

Wanting to be a part of those stories made the Algonquin one of the first “grown-up” places that I regularly frequented after graduating from college. The lounge area is decorated like a cozy sitting-room, filled with couches and wing chairs. The lighting is gentle so everyone looks great. There’s often a cat ambling around the room to make it feel even more homey. The drinks are expensive but they’re big and they’re good and the staff will let you linger over one as long as you like. Which, I'm happy to say, I’ve done more times than I can count.

Sitting there has been a before and after theater tradition for decades and it’s always been perfectly acceptable to lean over and strike up a conversation with the folks in a nearby sitting group about the show they’d just seen. But last night—K and I were there from 10 p.m. until almost midnight—the place was half-empty.  Which worries me. 

The hotel has been declared a landmark but they’ve fiddled with the sitting-room before and, if people stop going, they might again—and maybe this time permanently.  That would be a loss, not just for me and my buddies but for anyone who has a sense of the theatrical.  So go.

October 5, 2011

Why "Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling" Flies

I’m going to be honest with you.  I had no idea what to make of Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling, the new Adam Rapp play that the Atlantic Theater Company, its own facilities under renovation, opened at Classic Stage on Monday night. And since I’m being candid, I should say that there may be a lot less there than meets the eye. Yet, I have to admit that I was fascinated by it. 

The 90-minute play takes place right before, during and after a dinner party attended by two well-heeled Connecticut couples (the husbands once rowed crew together at Yale) and their near-adult and very troubled children (the dinner is celebrating the release of one couple’s son from the mental hospital following a suicide attempt; the daughter of the other is an agoraphobic with a morose attitude and a weird interest in arm hair).

This being a Rapp play there is much profanity, many intimations of violence, heavy dollops of brazen sexuality (two people actually get down right on the dining room table) and, despite it all, lots of laughs.

Rapp seems to want to say something profound about the depravity of that one percent of the people in this country who own 40 percent of its wealth. And he goes heavy on the symbolism to hammer home his point. There’s a chained lion in the basement of the host couple’s home, a possible allusion to the waning power of the once-mighty middle class. There’s an epidemic of dying geese, perhaps representing a disregard for the environment. There’s an overworked and underestimated black maid, clearly the object of careless racism and probably a stand-in for the virtues of working-class America.

Or at least that’s what I think those things were supposed to mean because, in keeping with my honesty theme, I have to say I don’t know what the hell they really meant. And that uncertainty means that it would have been easy for the play to tip over into twee surrealism.  That it doesn’t is due to the firm, guiding hand of director Neil Pepe and to the gifted actors he’s recruited.

Pepe’s production deftly treads the tightrope between the silly and the almost sublime. It never doubts the material, treating even its most absurd moments with such straightforward sincerity that I was eager to know what would happen next even when Rapp made it tough to understand what had just happened.

There isn’t one sluggard in the cast.  Christine Lahti has the showiest role and she has a dandy time playing Sandra, the larcenous host of the dinner party who has designs on her meek husband’s more virile best friend and is willing to do anything to get him (click here to read a Q&A with Lahti). 

The redoubtable Reed Birney gives dignity to the milquetoast husband and Cotter Smith finds the decency in his pal, a repressed, Bernie Madoff-like financier. Both actors have played similar characters before but no one plays them better.

But even in such grand company, Quincy Tyler Bernstine manages to stand out as the put-upon maid Wilma. Bernstine is often a solemn actress but she displays a winning lightness here, sidestepping the stereotypical sassiness that usually gets tapped for such roles and coming up with a refreshingly original take that reveals Wilma to be a woman who’s made peace with the nonsense that her supposed betters are constantly creating. It’s Bernstine’s finest work to date. 

The creative team does its part too, particularly costume designer Theresa Squire who puts all the trademark WASP wear—seersucker jackets, candy-colored slacks, madras bow ties and Chanel suits—to sly effect. 

I went to the show by myself and so I had no one with whom to kibitz about it on the subway ride home but I have been trading emails with my theatergoing buddy Bill who saw it the night before I did. We still haven’t settled on a satisfying sense of what Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling is all about. But the one thing I am sure of is that I’m really glad I saw it.

October 1, 2011

A "Lemon Sky" That isn't Vivid Enough

Playwrights usually write memory plays at the beginning of their careers, as Tennessee Williams did with The Glass Menagerie and Dylan Thomas with Under Milk Wood. But Lanford Wilson already had seven plays, two of them hits, under his belt when he wrote Lemon Sky, the autobiographical piece about a painful period he spent with his estranged father that the Keen Company is giving a somewhat pallid revival at Theater Row's Clurman Theater.

Now I should say that mine is a minority opinion.  Most reviews have praised this production and it’s scored an A- on StageGrade, which aggregates the reviews of the top New York critics. But I can’t help thinking that the high marks actually reflect the way people feel about Wilson, who died in March and was not only a founding father of what we now call the indie theater movement and the author of such plays as Burn This, Fifth of July, Hot l Baltimore and the Pulitzer Award-winning Talley’s Folly but, by all accounts, was also a real mensch (click here to read the opening chapter in a series of pieces on Wilson that my fellow blogger Parabasis has put together).

Lemon Sky opens when Wilson’s alter-ego Alan, a young man who’s grown up in the Midwest, has just arrived in California to attend college and to live with the father he’s seen only a few times since his parents broke up when he was a small boy. The dad is now remarried to a Leave-It-to-Beaver-style mom, has two younger sons and is also serving as foster father to two troubled teen girls. Both father and son want to make up for lost time but, as Alan tells the audience at the start of the play, both will be painfully disappointed.

Because Lemon Sky is a memory play, the onstage action is divided between the 1950s when the main events happened and 20 years later when they are being remembered. Scenes and fragments of scenes float in and out and are sometimes replayed from different perspectives.

Wilson wasn't really known as a master of the well-plotted play but he was a wonderful wordsmith and there are enough lovely moments in Lemon Sky that I found myself wishing I could time-travel back to the original production in 1970, which starred a young Christopher Walken as Alan and Charles Durning as his dad.

The Keen production's Alan is played by Keith Nobbs, a boyishly appealing actor who had a similar narratorish role in last season’s Lombardi. Kevin Kilner, who seems to have done most of his stage work in regional theater, brings an intense, if one-note, fierceness to the dad. 

All seven members of the cast do everything they are supposed to do but neither they nor their director Jonathan Silverstein seem able to do anything that goes beyond the expected. What should soar remains earthbound and the result, at least for my husband K and me, was an unmemorable night in the theater.