is Exhibit A from an excellent playwright (Richard Greenberg, Three Days of Rain) who is just coasting. Set in New York, it opens with a speech by a slightly fey, hoarse-throated young man named Seth (Reg Rogers). Seth’s family — genetic and adopted — stand around him in tableau on an elevated platform bordered by three walls that don’t touch the floor. By having lighting designer Ben Stanton throw some lurid splashes of color onto those walls, director Trip Cullman makes it clear that we’re peering through the looking glass of Seth’s conscience and subconsciousness.
Seth’s soliloquy — so pregnant with irony, the guy looks ready to drop — is an apology to his sweet, puddle-brained friend, Becca (Marin Ireland), for his inappropriate anger during a cab ride. What quickly emerges is a continuation of Seth’s ire toward his 94-year-old grandmother, Maxine (Cynthia Harris), who is wealthier than God, and whose needy eccentricities are partly explained by her ex-husband’s necrophilia. At stake is her inheritance, while Seth’s future entitlement to it is confounded by her habit of adopting adult children, including flip-do’d redhead Bettina (Caroline Lagerfelt) — oblivious that all of those in Maxine’s circle is so aware of Bettina’s kleptomania, they purchase inexpensive items for her to steal. Seth, meanwhile, is tormented by his grandmother’s skepticism about his conceptual-art project, which is so far merely conceptual; he could make it happen if only hehad a small house of his own, instead of a simple apartment. Grandma could easily buy him a house, but is unmoved by his plight. As a consequence, he fantasizes about murdering her. Still, because it’s a bittersweet comedy, they do take nice walks in the park. Greenberg’s play, ostensibly about the delusions of wanting and the inadequacies of having, contains some funny lines and overly familiar eccentrics who are really just bundles of nerves with a gift for repartee and a New York state of mind. Cullman’s staging is extremely stylish. The play eventually settles onto Seth, Becca and their adopted child in a denouement that goes on for days. With magical snowfalls outside and inside the windows, we’re to infer that this is a mystical work about family and ennui, you know, like in James Joyce’s “The Dead.” Believe that connection if you want. I didn’t.
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