One glance at the odd sticks of furniture that constitute Scott Orlesky's resourceful but budget-strapped set and you'll be forgiven for thinking that Boomerang has bitten off more than it can chew in mounting Eugene O'Neill's durable melodrama. And yet, by evening's end, the tale of former prostitute Anna and her love affair with rough-hewn stoker Mat demonstrates its power, thanks chiefly to its two young leads, who, though less than seasoned, perform with admirable conviction.
As Anna, Jennifer Larkin proves an arresting presence and surprisingly believable in projecting an unwavering and unsentimental resilience to life's hard knocks. She may find even more colors in the part as the run continues. Aidan Redmond convincingly inhabits the character of her smitten-then-disillusioned lover, though his Irish brogue is tough going at first.
Dunsten J. Cormack as Anna's crusty father, Chris, has a similar problem: His Swedish accent is so heavy he seems at times to be speaking that foreign tongue. Supporting cast members Steven M. Bari, Michael Kohn, and Linda S. Nelson succumb to some unfortunate naturalistic mumbling, but Cheryl McCarron's costumes evoke the 1910 period effectively.
A few of O'Neill's conceits, like Chris' forebodings about "dat old davil sea," are dated, but when Anna finally stands up to the two men in her life -- hurling details of her lurid background -- the play feels surprisingly contemporary, thanks to its strong feminist underpinnings. Under Cailin Heffernan's straightforward direction (some awkward blocking aside), Anna Christie demonstrates why, even in this modest presentation, it remains a classic.
Presented by the Boomerang Theatre Company
at Center Stage, NY, 48 W. 21st St., NYC.
Sept. 7-24. Schedule varies.
(212) 501-4069 or www.theatermania.com.