The Keen Company presents Pulitzer Prize winning Lanford Wilson’s journey, based loosely on his life when, at age 17, he left home in Nebraska, where he lived with his divorced mother, to reunite with his father in San Diego, Ca. It was originally written in 1970 and became a movie with Kevin Bacon in 1987.
The production is presented as part narrative, by all the characters breaking the 4th wall, but mainly by Alan (Keith Nobbs), as he relates flashbacks & forwards beginning with his travels by bus in the 1950s to go live with his father Douglas (Kevin Kilner) who is remarried to Ronnie (Kellie Overbey) and living in the burbs of San Diego with their two young boys and a couple of problematic teen girls whom they foster (they get a monthly sum of money from social services to take care of the girls). It’s not your everyday family but it seemed to work until Alan comes on the scene to shake up the structure and many realities.
One day, Dad Douglas just never came home, leaving Alan and his mother in the Midwest. There’s also the issue that Alan’s baby sister died in womb while Dad was out whoring around. Things never forgotten nor forgiven. Buried issues erupt given enough time and circumstance.
In the meantime, the story begins with a welcoming and accommodating Ronnie who is afraid to rock the boat in fear of Douglas walking out on her and their two young boys.
Carol (Alyssa May Gold), one of the foster girls, is a sex addict, using her feminine wiles to try and seduce Alan, but eventually they become buddies instead, while Penny (Amie Tedesco) the other teen, a shy, brainy pragmatic type with stilted speech, gets through life trying to keep everything under control until she becomes the focal point.
Alan has a headache that lasts throughout the play. No wonder! He’s under constant pressure from his Dad to perform – – go to school fulltime, keep a job fulltime, while Dad begins to wonder why Alan hasn’t had any “tail,” accusing him of being “queer.”
Things change dramatically in Act II, as the family dynamics begin to crumble on many levels. Kilner is just sleazy enough as the blue collar swing shift worker, rough and tumble bon vivant; Overbey appears a bit on the young side as the wife, and there are issues with hearing her clearly but she is the Barbie doll type wife from the 50s. Nobbs is irresistible as the young son who floats seamlessly in and out as a 17 year old to the present day 29 year old, and is more clever than he’s given credit, hoping to find solace and heal his wounds.
There’s smart dynamic dialogue with enough humor to think you’re watching a comedy in Act I before the tension mounts in Act II, as Jonathan Silverstein’s guiding hand directs the cast. The young sons Jerry and Jack are adorably played by Logan Riley Bruner and Zachary Macklewicz.
Harold Clurman Theatre, West 42nd St., thru October 22nd. www.keencompany.org