Sometimes, while keeping your eyes on the prize, you don't feel the people who love you slipping away. Sportswriter Alan Singer's (Michael Mantell) realized prize is being tapped to cover the Yankees from the press box and follow the team wherever it plays. His son Jerry's (Josh Jacobson) realized prize is his acceptance to Penn State and living away from home. Ruthie (Penny Peyser), the lady of the house, is a bit more old-fashioned in her views of what a home is. She lost her parents in the Holocaust, so she keeps the family close. That is her prize, and it's falling apart. Critical sickness shakes the strong foundation of this family, asking what takes priority over familial love. It is 1964, New York.
Elliot Shoenman's world premiere play feels old-school, which fits nicely with the period. His characters are very much ethnic—Jewish here, but Italian, Irish, any would be the same. Some of the drama is telegraphed—for example, a hospital room on Nathan Matheny's leveled and sectioned utilitarian set that can be seen as soon as we enter the theatre. Also Alan's last big blunder is inconceivable for a rational man. Nonetheless, Shoenman's dialogue is realistic. He puts the family at the core of his play, leaving hope that everything will work out. Mark L. Taylor directs the 22 scenes with no set changes, sometimes to the detriment of scenes; it can be an interesting concept, but it seems not to work here.
Mantell plays Alan as a bit unconcerned about the big picture. Peyser is basically fine, as is Jacobson, however, the entire cast needs to tighten its pacing and interaction. An elder generation of in-laws, played by Sheila Oaks and Greg Lewis, offers a good bit of humor; fellow press-box writers, portrayed by Larrs Jackson and Howard S. Miller, bickering like an old married couple, also conjure laughs. Stacy Keanan and Sharon Munfus add solid support.
Presented by the Inkwell Theater at the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. (Sun. 7 p.m. only Feb. 25.) Jan. 20-Feb. 25. (866) 811-4111. www.inkwelltheater.com.