(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
Ownership of a house in a formerly all-white neighborhood is the focus of a play that takes place in two time frames -- the present and 50 years ago. That may sound like "Clybourne Park II," but it turns out to be something quite different. Playwright Kirsten Greenidge and director Rebecca Taichman, who had a solid success together with "Milk Like Sugar" at Playwrights Horizons in 2011 are teamed once again in this latest production of LCT3 at the Claire Tow Theater. Did lightning strike twice? Not quite. The new play lacks the clear focus and intensity of their earlier collaboration. Two sisters, the married Hannah (Marsha Stephanie Blake) and her single sister Nessa (Carra Patterson) have inherited the home which their recently deceased grandparents Rex (Victor Williams) and Lucy (Eisa Davis) Taylor purchased 50 years back. A young impoverished Irish Catholic couple Joe (Dashiell Eaves) and Patty Ann (Amanda Quaid) Donovan are enlisted as "ghost buyers" who, for a fee, are to make the purchase and then sign the title over to the Taylors. In what seemed to me an implausible development, the Taylors move into the home before the title has been signed over to them. Hannah and her laid-back husband Rich (Frank Harts) are now living in the house with their unseen son Miles, who has ADHD, and whose problems at school Hannah sees as racially based. She stubbornly wants to keep the house although her sister wants to sell it. Out of the blue, the elderly Mr. Donovan (now played by Robert Hogan) shows up to tell the sisters that the title was never signed over to their grandparents and his wife now wants the house. Eventually, his wife (now played by Jenny O'Hara) shows up, title in hand. I won't say more about the outcome. The first act is burdened with too much shouting -- parents shouting at misbehaving children, shouting spouses, shouting siblings. The dialog between shouts is often banal. However, this is one of the rare plays that improves in the second act. There is a lovely scene between Lucy and Joe and a powerful scene between Lucy and Patty Ann. The elderly Patty Ann has a fine speech near the end. Surprisingly, at least for me, the Donovans -- both the young and old versions -- came across as more sympathetic than any of the black characters. Lucy is an intriguing creation -- beautiful, refined, well-traveled, well-read and well-dressed (and superbly played by Davis), but is too much of a stereotype turned inside out. Joe, as portrayed by both Eaves and Hogan, had more humanity than all the others. There were a few things that puzzled me. Why does the playwright bring up the mysterious deal broker John, whom we never meet and whose existence seemed superfluous? Why have the sisters been raised by their grandparents? Mimi Lien, whose set for "Dance and the Railroad" I greatly admired, has created another attractive minimalist set. Oana Botez's costumes, especially for Lucy, are a treat. Taichman's direction is fluid and assured. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes including intermission.