Oil and vinegar make a good pairing, yet they remain relatively distinct entities unless blended vigorously. Greg Pierce, in crafting his two-hander, provides the necessary agitation to Sterling's (William Petersen) comfortable existence in the Costa Rican jungle, allowing it to emulsify and intermingle with his niece Becky's (Rae Gray) acerbic forthrightness as the two become reacquainted after many years. ]
Becky, as we soon learn, has been suspended from high school for her supposed involvement in a party prank that went awry and left the titular character – a cruel nickname for her mentally challenged classmate Marybeth – in a coma. Uncle Sterling, holding back from judgment and prying due to his own checkered past, does his best to make his young ward feel welcome as she takes some “time away.” Interestingly, taking time away is what first brought Sterling to the jungle, and as uncle and niece become more comfortable, revelations gradually seep out, forcing both to confront what it is they're running from.
Director Randall Arney's avenue staging (with audience on both sides of the playing space), along with Takeshi Kata's spare but flexible set, Richard Woodbury's rich soundscape (especially the iguana on the tin roof) and Daniel Ionazzi's angular lighting, accentuates the openness of Sterling's front door – less shack and the immediacy of the jungle outside it. Gray's unfiltered volubility is a perfect foil to Petersen's more philosophical calm, keeping us engaged throughout this resonant exploration of regret and redemption.
The Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood. Through April 27. (310) 208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.
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