Sunday, June 21, 2015

Of Good Stock **

When Richard Greenberg’s scheduled play wasn’t ready on time, Manhattan Theatre Club replaced it with this piece by Melissa Ross that premiered at South Coast Repertory earlier this year. In it we meet the Stockton sisters — Jess (Jennifer Mudge), Amy (Alicia Silverstone) and Celia (Heather Lind) — the adult daughters of a long deceased famous author, Mick Stockton, an inveterate womanizer whose wandering ways did not even slow down when his wife was dying of cancer. The family is gathered for a long Summer weekend at their Cape Cod home, which Mick left to Jess, along with his literary estate. Jess’s husband Fred (Kelly AuCoin) is a food writer who met Jess when he was Mick’s assistant. The occasion for the get-together is Jess’s 41st birthday, which is significant because it marks the year that she outlives her mother. Amy, a simpering narcissist engaged to the equally vapid Josh (Gregg Keller), is preoccupied by her upcoming destination wedding. Celia, a hippy do-gooder with commitment issues, has invited her current interest Hunter (Nate Miller), whom she met while building houses for Habitat for Humanity in Missoula. If the sisters are accomplished or lead interesting lives, you wouldn't know it from the play. During the course of the weekend, we learn more about all their relationships, usually at a high decibel level. The playwright could not have asked for a better production. Santo Loquasto’s evocative revolving set made me want to head for Cape Cod as soon as possible. Tom Broecker’s costumes suit the characters well. The cast is fine, especially AuCoin and Mudge. The direction, by MTC artistic director Lynne Meadow, does not hide the play’s shortcomings. The three-sister play has a long honorable tradition that includes works by Shakespeare, Chekhov, Henley, Wasserstein and Letts. I wish I could say that this play was a welcome addition to the canon, but after more than two hours of bickering and shouting, the only thing I welcomed was the end. One of the characters makes an exit before intermission. Lucky him. Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes including intermission.

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