Under Lonny Price and Matt Cowart's insightful direction, Colella shines as Sarah, a mother clinging desperately to the home life she skillfully maintains. While such a character could easily fall flat, audiences feel Sarah's pain and panic thanks to moving songs such as "Why Don't I Ask." Selda Sahin's music and lyrics show off the cast's impressive vocal talents while creating deep and compelling characters. When Neil gives thanks and makes plans for a relationship with his newborn son in "I Have a Boy," the character we have come to know transforms into a man of fear and thwarted intentions. Neil becomes a real parent, and his actions and struggle become understandable.
Testa provides moments of joy and laughter, playing both Evelyn and Ben's friends at school with expert timing and delivery. Through a college-kid handshake with references to Soulja Boy and "Star Trek" light-saber fights and discussions of being hip and having "the Twitter," Testa mines humor that makes Evelyn's relationship with Ben all the more moving when she stops following the house rules and tries to talk to her grandson.
Predovic portrays Ben with such honesty and skill that audiences can intimately identify with his difficult transition to college while continually asking the question his parents cannot voice: "Why?" Though book writer Greg Turner's ending seems a bit simplistic for a show that draws so much power from its visceral realism, the disappointment cannot overshadow this eloquent and moving musical.
Presented as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival at the Tank at 45th Street Theatre, 354 W. 45th St., NYC. Oct. 10–18. Remaining performances: Wed., Oct. 14, 4:30 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 15, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 17, 1 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 18, 4:30 p.m. (212) 352-3101, (866) 811-4111 or www.nymf.org. Casting by Michael Cassara.