Sunday, August 11, 2013

Harbor **

(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
In this Primary Stages production at 59E59, the harbor is Sag Harbor, where architect Ted (Paul Anthony Stewart) and his somewhat younger husband Kevin (Randy Harrison), a would-be writer, live a seemingly idyllic, unencumbered life. This idyl is punctured by the unexpected arrival in a live-in van of Kevin's long-absent sister Donna (Erin Cummings), a single mother who fancies herself a singer, and her preternaturally wise 15-year-old daughter Lottie (Alexis Molnar), who has a taste for Edith Wharton and Virginia Woolf. Early on, Ted has a terrific rant about his hatred of young children and mothers who display an undeserved sense of entitlement. His feelings do not deter Donna from her mission of manipulating her brother into persuading Ted that they should raise her forthcoming child so she can go off and get a job singing on a cruise ship. (The fact that she claims it is too late for an abortion when she is not even showing the slightest baby bump perplexed me.) Their one-night visit turns into a few months. When Ted learns of Donna's plan and Kevin's reluctance to turn her down, he and Kevin have a gripping conversation that lays bare Ted's true perception of Kevin and of the underlying nature of their relationship. A new equilibrium emerges. The play touches on many interesting topics, such as peer pressure on gay couples to parent, the fragility of equilibrium in a relationship, and the dangers of a life based on illusion. Unfortunately, the tone is wildly uneven: playwright Chad Beguelin seems uncertain whether he is writing a sitcom, a soap opera or a serious drama. When the snappy one-liners recede and the tone turns more serious in the second act, it is a bit unsettling. The actors acquit themselves honorably with the sometimes unconvincing dialogue. Andrew Jackness's scenic design cleverly has the living room walls covered in a faint pastel representation of the house's exterior, but the furnishings looked a bit sparse for this couple. Candice Donnelly's costumes are apt. Director Mark Lamos keeps things moving briskly. (Something strange happened about 10 minutes into the play. An amplified voice instructed the actors to stop while they traced the source of a hearing aid that was creating interference. After a few minutes, the play resumed with the actors repeating most of one scene. It was an unfortunate intrusion). Running time: 2 hours, including intermission.

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