Daisy Foote's drama examines the disintegration of a family in a small New Hampshire town. The father, Charlie, was a partner in a plumbing company until he was struck by lightning while installing a Jacuzzi. His widow, Mary (Ann Colby Stocking), attempts to perpetuate the illusion that hers is a normal, happy family. But son Warren (Marco Naggar) is pursuing a girl Mary disapproves of, and he soon winds up in prison. Teenage daughter Frances (Tara Windley) has larger aspirations, and a love of literature and music, and she has found a mentor in a sophisticated, much-traveled older woman who has been to Bhutan. Said nation becomes a sort of dream landscape for Frances, who longs to travel—and to attend Columbia University if she can somehow find the money. But Mary is determined that all her money will go to getting Warren out of prison and setting him up in business. Mary's sister Sara (Tracie Lockwood) went into a tailspin when her boyfriend of 15 years suddenly married another woman. Sara turned to drink, lost her job, and is feuding with Mary over money.
Foote's characters are expertly drawn, and the situations are dynamic, but the play is awkwardly constructed, moving back and forth from past to present. And we're kept frustratingly in the dark about certain facts: We know from the first that Warren is in prison, but it's not until the final scene that we learn how and why he got there.
Director Elina de Santos has assembled a top-notch cast and deploys the actors with a keen awareness of the play's nuances. Stocking's Mary tries fiercely to hold her family members together, despite their eagerness to break free. Windley neatly captures the wistful spunkiness of the daughter eager to escape from her family. Naggar explores the desperation of a young man who invests his whole identity and all his hopes in one woman, with disastrous results. And Lockwood provides a finely etched portrait of a disappointed woman giving in to blowsiness and drink and captures a good many laughs along the way.
Set designer Mark Guirguis supplies the cheery New England kitchen, which belies the emotional storms that surge through it.
Presented by and at Rogue Machine, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A. Oct. 23-Nov. 21. Sun., 7 p.m.; Mon., 8 p.m. (855) 585-5185. www.roguemachinetheatre.com.