on the terrific set of In the Daylight.
A Humorous Journey into Dysfunction
By Lauren Yarger
Add a little dismembering to dysfunction with a sprinkling of laugh-out-loud humor and you get In the Daylight, Tony Glazer’s surprising new play being presented Off-Broadway by Choice Theatricals in association with Vital Theatre Company.
The play is surprising because you can’t help but like it, despite the too-often used dysfunctional family plot and some hokey plot twists. The charm comes from Glazer’s one-line zingers and the creation of a mother-from-hell character that makes Medea almost seem preferable.
The action takes place on Christopher Barreca’s terrifically stark, jagged and sharply angled set that embodies the maladjusted family as well as their descent into an abyss of madness. A single funereal urn on a pedestal down stage left adds the only color to the all-white, hard plastic-like setting.
Famous writer Martin Feingold (Joseph Urla) finally has returned home six years after his father’s death to deal with the ashes and to face his mother, Elizabeth (Concetta Tomei), whom he thinks is dying, and sister, Jessica (Sharon Maguire) who feels he has abandoned her to deal with all of the hard work of looking after their mother and their father’s medical finance business. An added wrinkle is that Martin’s latest best seller, “True Blue,” accused Jessica and Elizabeth, if subtly, of murdering his father William (Jay Patterson), whose spirit still wanders the tormented walls of the house in search of a drink.
Their reunion is less than tender. Jessica and Martin pick up brother-sister bickering right where they left off. Martin complains about having to deal with fans and relates the adoration of an overly zealous groupie whom he sat next to on the plane. Jessica isn’t impressed and starts in on Martin about his excessive drinking (in a nice move from director John Gould Rubin, Martin literally follows in the steps of his alcoholic ghost father).
His welcome home is made complete by Elizabeth who responds to his cheerful greeting with, “I suggest you take that smug look off your face before I wipe it off with my foot.”
When Martin asks what his mother’s plans are for disposing of the ashes, she responds that she’d like to have some French toast first then flush them down the toilet.
Let’s just say that she just gets even less charming after that, until the arrival of an unexpected guest during the hurricane brewing outside (nice light and sound design by Thom Weaver and Elizabeth Rhodes. I particularly liked a shadow effect following the father as he crept up the stairs).
The visitor is Martin’s groupie from the plane, returning his lost Blackberry. The southern drawled, not exactly the brightest bulb in the box (too bad, because the storm forces the power out) Charlotte (Ashley Austin Morris) is invited to stay and dry off, a request that gives sadistic pleasure to Elizabeth and Jessica and torture to Martin as Charlotte reveals information about him from the author's internet fan sites.
Soon, the plot takes a number of twists and nothing and no one is as they seemed. Although the twists are fairly predictable, and even over-the-top when it comes to plausibility, this dark comedy still is enjoyable and Tony Glazer is an author on whom to keep an eye. The best part is, that after viewing the Feingolds in action, you’ll question whether or not you can any longer classify your own family as dysfunctional.
In the Daylight runs through Oct. 11 at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre, 2162 Broadway, 4th floor at 76th St. For tickets phone (212) 579-0528 or visit http://www.vitaltheatre.org/.
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