If the aim of naturalism in theater is the pitch-perfect rendering of reality, then Cameron Watson's urbane staging of Robert Anderson's 1968 drama scores. It revolves around an aging, ailing and cantankerous egotist named Tom (Philip Baker Hall) and Tom's beleaguered son, Gene (John Sloan). A widowed college professor, the soft-spoken Gene has always sought his father's love but has never received it. With Tom now battling dementia, Gene struggles between a mix of duty and a desperate need to bond, and his equally strong desire to establish a new life for himself in California, 3,000 miles away. Constructed as a memory play, Anderson's highly personal work sometimes teeters on the edge of melodrama but ultimately transcends its suburban WASP milieu and mid–20th century perspective with its themes involving fathers and sons, family and self. Hall, a performer whose intense dynamic can barely be contained within the production's small venue, dominates the stage, barking at those around him; his Tom has become a fierce and wounded human animal. Sloan performs impeccably in the less flashy role of the tongue-biting adult Gene is laboring to be; so does Anne Gee Byrd as Tom's gracious, long-suffering wife. As sister Alice, banished from the family for marrying a Jew, the terrific Dee Ann Newkirk metamorphoses from a tight-lipped secondary character into the plot's fiery catalyst. The various shifts in time and place are effectively accommodated by designer John Iacovelli's spare set, with its transparent scrim elaborated on by projection designer Christopher M. Allison's color-imbued drawings. New American Theatre at the McCadden Theatre, 1157 N. McCadden Place, Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., thru May 22. (310) 701-0788, newamericantheatre.com.

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 17, 3 p.m.; Sun., May 22, 8 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: April 16. Continues through June 5, 2011

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