Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin *

It is admirable that Roundabout Theatre Company is trying to encourage young talent by giving playwrights who have had a success in their Underground space a chance to move upstairs to the Laura Pels. On the basis of his 2008 play "The Language of Trees," Roundabout has given that chance to Steven Levenson. Unfortunately, at least to me, his new work did not seem ready for prime time. Tom Durnin (David Morse) has just finished a five-year sentence for perpetrating a Ponzi scheme that wiped out the fortunes of his family and friends. His adult son James (Christopher Denham), who was forced to drop out of Yale when the money vanished, has been particularly traumatized, to the point that he become an emotional cipher. Tom bullies his son into letting him sleep on his couch for a month and blackmails his son-in-law Chris (Rich Sommer of "Mad Men") into putting him in contact with wife Karen (Lisa Emery). James cautiously begins a relationship with Katie (Sarah Goldberg), a woman he meets in writing class. The premise is intriguing, but the play mostly spins its wheels aimlessly. The tone moves uneasily between comedy (such as the wretched writing samples we are forced to hear) to drama that mostly fizzles. The character of Katie is so annoyingly vapid that I cringed whenever she appeared. The always interesting Morse mostly underplays the part of a manipulative liar. The usually fine Emery does not get much opportunity to shine. Sommer's character verges on the cartoonish. Denham was convincing as someone with crippling depression. Beowulf Boritt's revolving set concentrates too much of the action on the right half of the stage. Jeff Mahsie's costumes did not call attention to themselves. Scott Ellis directed. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes, no intermission.

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