Sunday, September 27, 2015

Ugly Lies the Bone ***

With this new play by Lindsey Ferrentino, now at the Black Box Theatre, Roundabout Underground continues its commitment to presenting emerging young playwrights, an effort that has previously paid off with playwrights Stephen Karam and Joshua Harmon. Jess (Mamie Gummer), a soldier badly burned by an IED in Afghanistan, has just returned to her small town on Florida’s Space Coast after a year and a half in a military hospital. She is a participant in an experimental study of virtual reality as a non-drug pain management treatment. Caitlin O’Connell plays the unseen experimenter. Jess shares the family home with her sister Kacie (Karron Graves), a schoolteacher. Their mother has been institutionalized for reasons unspecified. Katie has a dodgy boyfriend Kelvin (Haynes Thigpen) whom she met online. We also meet Jess’s former boyfriend Stevie (Chris Stack), now married and clerking at a convenience store, and eventually learn the reasons for their breakup. Just as Jess has suffered grievous injuries, the town has been devastated by mass layoffs when the shuttle program ended. We follow Jess’s struggles to find a way forward with her life. The cast is mostly strong, especially Gummer. Thigpen's approach to his character, particularly in his early scenes, is too broad. Tim Brown’s set looks lived in and authentic. Dede M. Ayite’s costumes are spot-on. The prosthetics designed and created by Vincent T. Schicchi and Thomas Denier Jr. are convincing.The projections by Caite Hevner Kemp are effective. Patricia McGregor’s direction has a few bumpy spots. I would call the play a diamond in the rough. Running time: 75 minutes, no intermission.

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