Ketti Frings' 1958 adaptation of Thomas Wolfe's autobiographical novel tells the story of young writer-to-be Eugene Gant (Grant Tambellini) and his embattled efforts to break free of his grasping, controlling mother, Eliza (Alison Blanchard), and his savagely dysfunctional family, and acquire an education. Frings' script won a Pulitzer Prize in its day, but in some respects time hasn't been kind to it, particularly in the early scenes, which seem weak, unfocused and dated. But once the lesser characters have been introduced, the power of the story takes over, as is the case in director T.L. Kolman's production. Tambellini nicely captures Eugene's raw vulnerability and coltish charm, and Blanchard provides an etched-in-acid portrait of Eliza, whose grasping nature makes her sacrifice the needs of her family to her money-making schemes, and who never lets reality intrude on her chosen beliefs. Geoffrey Wade scores as Eliza's alcoholic, domineering-but-ineffectual stone-cutter husband, and A.J. Jones plays Eugene's tubercular elder brother and mentor, Ben. His performance has its merits, but he coughs enough for a carload of Camilles and foreshadows too strongly and too soon his impending death. August Viverito designed the handsome black-and-white set. The Production Company at the Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 14. (800) 838-3006,

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Dec. 6. Continues through Dec. 14, 2013

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