Hollywood has trained us well: Midway through Horton Foote's Pulitzer Prize–winning play, your mind is racing ahead, tugging at a loose thread in the plotline, guessing what twist lies underneath. But Foote's storytelling style is like a lazy Southern Sunday afternoon spent on the front porch: He lays the play's cards on the table right from the start, then sits back and lets its stories draw you in like the mesmerizing back-and-forth of a rocking chair. Will Kidder (Dick DeCoit) and his wife, Lily Dale (Eileen Barnett), have just settled into a grand new house in Houston, mostly in an effort to avoid painful reminders of their only son, who recently drowned. The title character, their son's roommate who's never seen in the play, is a boogeyman. Though a comfort to Lily Dale, Will squeezes his eyes tight against his existence, hoping he'll just go away. The play's themes are proposed so subtly — aging ("Thirty-eight years … where'd they go?" Will asks), race relations (one of Lily Dale's old maids, played by Cyndi Martino, smiles warmly, "You haven't changed a bit! And look at me, wore out from cookin' in others' kitchens"), religion, homosexuality, generational conflict, gender roles — that you only feel their full impact upon later reflection. Director August Viverito wisely allows the play's inaction to stand, but his finest decision was casting DeCoit to lead the cast. In less capable hands, Foote's chunks of text easily could bore an audience; but as DeCoit navigates them, verve giving way to slumped shoulders, the crumbling descent of Will's life is just as riveting as it is heartbreaking. The Production Company at the Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., thru April 22. (800) 838-3006.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: March 11. Continues through April 17, 2011