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The Years

Playwright Cindy Lou Johnson's drama boils down to a somewhat standard soapy melodrama, set at several family get-togethers over a period of 16 years. Focusing on a series of travails besetting two sisters and their two cousins, the drama's layers of family angst are so routine and repetitious one is almost left muttering, "Family: You can't pick 'em, you can't take an ice pick to 'em." Director Charles Waxberg strives to craft a folksy, homespun Crimes of the Heart atmosphere, but the intimate mood and often sentimental undercurrents are ultimately inadequate at overcoming the banality of the writing and inconsequentiality of the plot.

Andrea (Michelle Correa) is mugged on her wedding day, an event anyone but she would clearly realize is a dire harbinger of things to come. However, at almost the same time Andrea is getting smacked around, her elder sister Eloise (Nikki Braendlin) discovers that her own husband (Greg James) has been cheating on her. Both women separately confide in their sensitive cousin Andrew (Andrew Salomone), an aspiring photographer who infuriates his prissy elder sister Isabella (Renee DeBevoise) with his creepy Diane Arbus-y photographs. Sixteen years later, Eloise is getting married to someone else. Andrea flies in for her sister's wedding and has a chance run-in with her ex-mugger, now a fine upstanding citizen. The play's final sequence takes place at a memorial for one of the family members, at which they realize which of them has been the lynchpin of the squabbling clan, holding them together.

Johnson's play consists of overwritten, cliche-driven scenes punctuated with histrionic ellipses. The characters' assertions that family is the most important thing are belied by the fact that each member of the clan keeps secrets from certain other members whom they ostensibly adore. The plotting is oddly unconvincing when it's not being unimaginative. The repetitious reappearances of Andrea's mugger are unconvincing at best, while the family traumas inevitably seem trite and timeworn.

Waxberg's staging trudges along with a mix of languid pacing and sadly uneven performances that don't seem well thought out. Still, in the supporting role of Isabella, DeBevoise offers a turn that nicely meshes vulnerability with priggishness, and Terik El-Guindy is appealingly tortured as the guilt-racked mugger.

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