Sunday, November 30, 2008

Road Show

photo: Joan Marcus

Now scarcely longer than 95 minutes, Sondheim's oft-reworked musical about the fortunes of the Mizner brothers remains maddeningly unfocused: even the score's most accomplished songs don't resonate without a strong narrative theme to organize them. We watch one brother rise to fame and fortune as the other falls from it, but none of it means anything to us since neither character stands for anything. This conceit of this John Doyle-directed production, which keeps the ensemble on stage to tell or stand witness to the story, may be close in spirit to show's early incarnation at NYTW years ago, but it keeps the characters at an emotional distance from us and emphasizes just how thin the story is. Michael Cerveris makes some interesting choices as Wilson, the more baldly manipulative brother - I would rather have seen the show told from his perspective, even though his huckster character generally seems like something out of Kander & Ebb - but all else on stage is a dull, beige blur.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Geometry Of Fire

photo: Sandra Coudert

There hasn't yet been a high number of plays to prominently include an Iraqi War serviceman returning to civilian life, so it's especially disappointing that this one, by Stephen Belber, is more pedantic than enlightening. It's also far too tidy and predictable: the subplot, in which the Saudi-American comes to believe that his dying father's blood cancer was caused by U.S. chemical testing in his Virginia backyard, is an instantly transparent device to bring him into inevitable angry opposition to the ex-soldier. Belber's dialogue is natural and believable, but the play lacks a suitable amount of escalating tension, which dulls the power of the characters' confrontation.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Cape Disappointment

Photo/Ryan Jensen

The latest work by The Debate Society, Cape Disappointment, is slightly disappointing, but only in comparison to their previous plays. More is not always better: the two new actors joining writer/performers Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen pick up the uneasy rhythms of casual conversation, but the awkward transitions create a lot of dead space. When it's moving though, you'll find that director Oliver Butler still has a wide variety of tricks up his sleeve, and that TDS still leaves most companies in their creative dust.

The Grand Inquisitor

It's rarely more austere than this: one thin, white raised platform, two black chairs, one actor talking while another listens. And yet for its full 55 minutes the simplicity here makes for an electrifying theatricality, forcing a focus where one actor raising his palms in the air becomes a cataclysmic event. The intensity is not a surprise, considering that Peter Brook has directed and that the text is an adaptation of Dostoyevsky's intellectually staggering tale in which Christ returns to Earth during the Spanish Inquisition. Bruce Myers, as both narrator and Inquisitor who (in a manner of speaking) puts the silent Christ on trial, is spellbinding, anchoring his performance with a gravity so core-shaking that the stage can barely contain it. Is man's free will incompatible with happiness? Are the edicts of Christianity impossible for its followers to ever achieve? How does evil masquerade as good? These are the kinds of questions I was left with after seeing Dostoyevsky's arguments put on stage and made newly vibrant and disturbing here. In a word, it's devastating.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hillary: A Modern Greek Tragedy With a (Somewhat) Happy Ending

Photo/Jim Baldassare

If you think about it--not a lot, but a little--Hillary Rodham Clinton's life somewhat resembles a Greek tragedy. She's undone by the very things she required to get where she was, almost as if she were caught in a battle between the unyielding warrior, Athena, and the free-love queen, Aphrodite. Such is the thought behind Wendy Weiner's Hillary: A Modern Greek Tragedy With a (Somewhat) Happy Ending, which leaps to its own conclusions, knowing full well that the task itself isn't as important as the lesson learned (or the laughs earned). Director Julie Kramer dodges the double-edged sword of the gimmicky premise by indulging in camp, and the mock history lesson gets by on clever usurpations of classic myths. Which part of Bill Clinton do you think his mother forgot to dip into the sacred spring? Where else would the gate to the underworld be but Newt Gingrich's cellar? What's striking is that while Darren Pettie's Bill and the four-person Chorus all go for laughs, we can watch Mia Barron (Hillary) struggle, time and time again, between ambition and humanity, emotion and success. That she fails and may still succeed is a heartfelt gift from the gods.

[Read on]

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Photo/Richard Termine

It's no surprise to find a company trying to adapt Catch-22 for the stage: the Iraq War--for all its paradoxes (e.g., fighting for peace), selfish capitalism, and military glory over individual rights--might as well be a sequel to Joseph Heller's brilliant novel. But it's not easy to adapt a jerky book like Catch-22, so it is a pleasant to surprise to find that Aquila Theatre Company is more than crazy enough--director Peter Meinecke might as well be wearing a straightjacket--to make the necessary cuts while still capturing the essence of the conflict. Theatrical paradoxes establish the mood--with projected backdrops of pure propaganda and low-budget illusions for sets--while the manic, triple-cast ensemble gives life to a wide variety of stock characters that flavor the central character, Yossarian, and his plight. In this role, John Lavelle manages to play both sane and insane, and this enables the show to do more than simply satirize warfare.

[Read on]

Friday, November 21, 2008

On The Town

photo: Joan Marcus

Guys in crisp white sailor suits are leaping through the air once more and New York New York is once again a helluva town. This Encores! production is an effervescent shot of music-theatre bliss, thanks to its full lush orchestra playing that flawless score, and a just-about-perfect cast having a ball with that sparkling book and dancing those tremendously expressive Robbins dances (supplemented here by Warren Carlyle). Is it possible to love old-school musical comedy and not be smitten with this production of On The Town? I doubt it. I don't know of a performer right now who is more suited to play lovesick romantic leading man Gabey than Tony Yazbeck, who sings and dances like a dream and whose "Lonely Town" is as heartfelt and evocative as I have ever heard. Also standing out, in a thoroughly outstanding cast, are Christian Borle and Jennifer Laura Thompson, whose comic chemistry together is the kind that slaps a smile on your face just to look at them, and Andrea Martin, who mugs and hams with such delicious shamelessness as a boozing voice teacher that she has an aerial view of over-the-top. Now for the bad news: the unusual staging, which puts the orchestra dead center dividing the playing area between the book scenes downstage and the dance scenes upstage on an elevation, is a smashing success downstairs but apparently a huge sightline nightmare from the Gallery, where even in the best of circumstances one longs for a seatbelt for fear of tumbling to one's death.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Love Dr. Mueller

Baltimore bad girl, Haight-Ashbury hippie, punk-era downtown scene-maker: the chapters in Cookie Mueller's life may be varied and colorful but they're all evidence of an adventurer who lived by her own rules. One of the shrewdest ideas in this new play, directed and co-adapted from Mueller's writings by Kareem Fahmy, is to break the rules and have the three actresses in the cast of six take turns playing her in successive scenes. Each brings a distinct characterization, and yet each is valid: the conceit makes the show less about who Cookie Mueller was, and more about what her life was about. Most of the episodes are both era-evoking and funny - the snappiest one freezes the goings-on in a seedy Jersey strip club while Mueller deadpans her mixed feelings to us about doing "floor work" - and even the weaker ones - such as the too-brief peek behind the scenes of John Waters' underground cult classic Pink Flamingos - are entertaining.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


photo: Joan Marcus

David Rabe's excellent 1976 play, in which Vietnam-era soldiers just out of Basic Training are thrown into intense, escalating social conflict with each other while holed up in their barracks, seems to have been revived for, and directed with a focus on, its gays-in-the-military content. On that score, the production is engaging as a time-capsule that invites contemplation about what has and has not changed. Unfortunately the play's other themes are shortchanged, which drains the production of dramatic tension. Two of the actors seem to have been misdirected: Ato Essandoh disastrously so as Carlyle - the character comes off as a psycho the minute he bounds through the door, so the audience isn't forced to sit with the discomforting suspicion that racial stereotyping is behind the hostility he gets from most of the other guys. Brad Fleischer, as Billy, is asked to play so unimpeachably straight that there's no sexual tension with Richie, whose longing for him now looks masochistic. Still, it's great to hear Rabe's dialogue again, and two of the performances - by Hale Appelman and J.D. Williams - are exactly right.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Farragut North

Photo/Jacqueline Mia Foster

From the moment Stephen (John Gallagher, Jr.) appears onstage as a successful, 25-year-old press secretary who somehow still has morals, it's obvious that Beau Willimon can't wait to knock him down in Farragut North. Willimon plays politics in the same backrooms as Aaron Sorkin, but rather than pace around, he internalizes the gears, taking the focus off the Democratic primary in Iowa and putting the emphasis on what's underneath all off Stephen's gloss and spin. The result is rather Machiavellian: his enemy, Tom (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) undoes him with kindness; his friend, Paul (Chris Noth) undoes him with contempt; his lover, Molly (Oliva Thirlby) undoes him with compassion; and he completes the destruction with his own arrogance. Director Doug Hughes is accustomed to dealing with characters having a crisis of faith, as well as with addressing monsters who come clad in good deeds, which results in a well-oiled production that also manages to dip below the surface of politics.

[Read on]

Friday, November 14, 2008


Photo/Joan Marcus

Thomas Bradshaw's latest play, Dawn, is a challenging play. It's not subtle--his dialogue bashes us over the head with its gross exaggerations, and director Jim Simpson works with an empty stage so as to keep things transparent and obvious. However, by setting up his characters to fall--likeable alcoholics, intolerable saviors, abused annoyers--the play challenges our expectations, and aims to make our morals a little more fluid. The lead, Gerry Bamman, really helps on account of his sitcom-level likability, and the disgusting comedy of it all will unsettle you (especially on accounts of the double whammy of pedophilia and incest), whether you like it or not.

The Footage

Photo/Joan Marcus

There are a lot of nice surprises in Joshua Scher's dark drama, The Footage. By using existing media and making it dark (LonelyGirl15, porn, machinima), Scher gives his plot credibility, which is the whole point in a play that focuses on the narrow line between what's real and not. That he manages to work in comic romances (like the flirting of two online avatars in World of WarCraft) is downright astonishing, especially given the way they enhance other aspects of the theme. Semiotics is often boring: here, it's fascinating, or perhaps that's just Scher's ear for the way people talk. The one unfortunate thing is that the ending compromises the theme: a play like this is ruined by a tidy ending, no matter how stylistically done (director Claudia Zelevansky does nice work).

[Read on]

My Vaudeville Man

photo: Carol Rosegg

The book of this two-character musical, which charts the relationship between a born-to-dance Irish-American vaudevillian and his disapproving mother who's ashamed of his profession, is disappointingly shallow: the first act doesn't do much more than contrast his wide-eyed naivete with her cold-eyed suspicion, before closing with a stakes-raising conflict that is soon glossed over and made irrelevant in the second act. However, there are at least a few good songs in the score (the title song is especially infectious) and both Karen Murphy and Shonn Wiley are terrific. The show's chief pleasure - for me, a big one - is Wiley's tap-dancing: his extended second act dance number, which has the added twist of also being a drinking contest besides a tap challenge, is breathtaking.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


There's magic blowing through the air. It might only look like flimsy pieces of paper "snow," and you can see the high-powered vent sending them through the theater in a Slava's Snowshow burst, can see the Sunday in the Park With George-level digital backdrop. But from the moment the first Cirque du Soleil performer slaloms down a hill, across an angled path center stage, and then back up a hill on the other side, you're a kid again, being utterly swept away. Wintuk is an aesthetic, intimate circus: there are no animals, and no high-flying acts. Instead, the focus is on the capacity of the human body to astound, whether through the first act's crazy gymnastic flips and acrobatic balancing acts or the second act's more subdued contemporary dances, the sort that make your single hula hoop seem lame, or shame you for not being able to climb a rope, let alone spin through the air and gyrate on one. It's also on the capacity of the human mind to imagine things: hence actors on stilts bring giant bird creatures to life, and bunraku artists lurk in the backdrop of giant ice golems that march across the stage as the actors sing foreign choral music. It is, admittedly, both an exciting and alien experience, and, as always, it is utterly spellbinding. Of particular note: a clever contortionist routine that gives new meaning to the word "rag doll" and an ever more precarious balancing act atop a tower of rolling pins. Of no importance: the plot, which introduces five breakdancing actors in dog costumes and a clown trapped in a garbage can. It's a whimsical breath of fresh air; go.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Most Damaging Wound

Talk about range: Blair Singer's The Most Damaging Wound opens with a stream of curses and a flood of alcohol, builds from frenzy of casual crudeness into a series of subtle emotions and then--while still propelling itself through some wild antics--puts its hand on the pulse of Male Maturity, and keeps it there for ninety of the best minutes you'll spend in a theater. Chris Thorn delivers an impressive performance as he uses liquid courage to swing his character from comedy to drama and back again, and his energy helps to pull the entire play along, not that the rest of the cast, with their ease and real camaraderie, really needs much needling. Much of that credit must be laid at Mark Armstrong's feet: the best directors are the ones whose touch is invisible, and even with the actors just feet away in this intimate space, I didn't notice a bit of blocking. The theater needs more of this honest naturalism, and less of the bullshit machismo you'll find in a Neil LaBute play.

[Read on]

The Most Damaging Wound

photo: Deanna R. Frieman

Here's a rarity: a bunch of guys (all hetero, save one) dealing with their issues of "masculine intimacy" in a play that isn't out to damn them or to damn testosterone in general. In this sometimes poignant and largely cliche-free dramedy (by Blair Singer) the buddies who reunite some years after college over drinks and pizza are believable regular guys whose bonds with each other, formed in post-adolescence, have been revised in the transition to adulthood. Some of their conflicts, such as the strain between the now-sober musician and the eternal drunk who used to be his best friend, seem like they're going to be been-there done-that but the resolves are not what you expect; others, such as the realization that a long-standing friendship had been based on idolatry, are things that guys are too seldom depicted talking credibly about. The actors give finely detailed performances that make it very clear that each of the characters' relationships to the others has been thought out: five guys, and one gal who shows up unexpectedly, add up to a high number of interpersonal dynamics and yet my bullshit detector almost never went off. Mark Armstrong's direction allows the drama and humor of the piece while keeping it all grounded in so believable and clear a reality that you could chart the rise of the liquor buzz just by how the actors move around the room. The level of acting is generally impressive in its detail but I must make special mention of Chris Thorn, who plays the kind of sometimes inappropriate, sometimes juvenille goofball you can't help but like no matter how hard you try. He not only puts over most of the play's funny business, he also precisely nails a dead-honest drunk dramatic monologue that is one of the play's most memorable highlights.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


There were about a hundred people bravely chancing the waitlist to get into one of the instantly sold-out "developmental" readings of Yank! at the York. With luck, the show will soon get a full-scale production in New York and all those who were turned away this time will get to discover one of the best new musicals of this decade. Yank! is one-of-a-kind: crafted as if it is a musical from the 1940's, but telling a love story between two WW2 military men that couldn't have been told then. (The Todd Haynes film Far From Heaven is the only pop culture antecedent I can think of.) The cast for this on-book, chairs-in-a-semicircle reading included Ivan Hernandez, last seen in the show during its initial development at NYMF a couple of years ago, along with Bobby Steggert, Nancy Anderson and Jeffry Denman, seen last year when the show played a critically acclaimed limited engagement in Brooklyn at Gallery Players. The show has always been deeply moving, and each revision makes it more so, but I can't deny that recent setbacks to gay marriage rights also helped to make this reading nothing short of heartbreaking. A wise person once said to me that the first two questions that should be asked about theatre are "why?" and "why now?". The answers here are that we need Yank! and we need it immediately.

Monday, November 10, 2008

As We Speak

Photo/Leigh Celentano

Let me be clear; I left As We Speak in a rage triggered not at all by a single word in this (re:) Direction performance, but rather by the feeling of wasting two hours of my life. I am not proud of bashing plays, I still find it to be reductive, but after sitting on this review for two days, I feel obligated to express what I truly felt about this empty play, from the simply bad aesthetics (an unlit stage, missed cues, a bland set) to the terrible acting (mumbled, hard to hear, recited), and on a larger scale, the overall problems with Tom Berger's static direction and John Patrick Bray's thoughtless script. Do I think it is easy to write a play, let alone to act or direct one? No. Does that give this group the right to lower off-off-Broadway's reputation? No.

[Don't read on]

All About Eve

There's a limit to how critical I want to be of this on-stage reading: plenty of people donated their time and talent to raise money for the worthy Actors Fund cause, and I can trust on that score that it was a great success. I'll only say that too many roles were miscast and that it took three hours for the actors to read this adaptation of the screenplay: snappy quips don't fly in slow motion. Here's who was good: Brian Bedford as Addsion DeWitt - his characterization was spot-on and his line readings assured, you'd have thought he'd been playing it for years; Keri Russell as Eve Harrington - you could feel an edge in the character's strategic false modesty; and Jennifer Tilly who, in the "Marilyn Monroe" role of Miss Caswell, handily stole the evening with only a handful of deliciously delivered lines.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents

Photo/Thomas Hand Keefe

The Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents throws around the word "fuck" a lot, especially from the mouth of its protagonist, Dora (Grace Gummer), an emotionally challenged girl who is, for the first time in ten years, "pulling down the pharmaceutical curtain." But the show's about sexual awakening just as fucking's the same as making love: and this is where Kristjan Thor's direction (every bit as closed off as Dora) works small miracles. For instance, the Fine Gentleman (Max Lodge)--who is actually a sleazy door-to-door salesman--seduces Dora by talking about how perfume is made from ox shit, and soap from pig fat: the underlying lies are given up by their surfaces, and that's what makes Dora's slow awakening so tragic. This is Gummer's play, and she commands the play despite a necessarily restrained performance. Beyond the dull surface of "I dunno"s and her energetic parroting, this girl, described as "almost not being involved," actually has feelings. "No big deal," she says, after revealing that she hates wearing pants, but also when describing what it felt like to have her baby sucked out of her. It's the cold, casual tragedy of the everyday, and it's the bitterest sort of love story.

[Read on]

Friday, November 07, 2008

8 Little Antichrists

Photo/Johnna Adams

If 8 Little Antichrists is supposed to be taken seriously--which it might seem, if you've seen the first two parts of the trilogy--then it has some very hefty problems. Thankfully, Flux takes it only as seriously as it needs to--and the thought of black-winged angels facing off bloody-horned heroes in California, 2028, is already sort of ridiculous--and takes a tongue-in-cheek approach that lets us suspend our disbelief in a cheesy Max Headroom sort of future. For all the creative satire that goes into fashioning a Philip K. Dick plot for Claudia (Candice Holdorf), a detective investigating the death of her clone sister, or to Melanie's (Rebecca McHugh) attempt to get the vessel of God back from Clockwork Orange-style drizz-heads Thump and Fibber (Jake Alexander and Joe Mathers), it's really just an excuse for over-the-top action that Vampire Cowboy Theater fans will be proud of. So long as you don't think about it for too long.

[Read on]


Photo/Justin Hoch

The second part of the Angel Eaters trilogy finds Johnna Adams at the top of her game, starting with a box full of rattlesnakes and a madcap kidnapping, jumping to a creepy encounter between a local undertaker and a drunk husband who share the same love, and flipping with a Southern Gothic romance between a young boy and a grieving mother. Jerry Ruiz jumps neatly between the three disparate parts of this play--a trilogy on the micro level--but what really makes this play is that for all the plot, the emphasis is on the characters first. (The cast is outstanding, too.) When she's not rushing, Adams has a terrific voice, and her stories work on multiple levels: as her characters grow more and more desperate, we see clearly that there's no price we won't pay to get back the ones we love.

[Read on]

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Made in Poland

Photo/Carol Rosegg

There's a Holden Caulfield anger brewing inside Bogus (Kit Williamson), and if you can't tell from the way he slams his iron pipe against the metal scaffolding that metaphorically represents his life as an unfinished construction site, he's got the words "Fuck Off" tattooed across his forehead. Was something lost in Alissa Valles's transition? It's possible: there's no American parallel for the strange devotion and peace these characters all find in Krzysztof Krawczyk, a real pop singer. But even the universal pursuit of love doesn't come across; Jackson Gay's direction is turned up so loud (and yet the action is still clearly faked) that it's all drowned out. The anarchist impulses of Fight Club were at least directed by broader statements about society, but Przemyslaw Wojcieszek's writing is focused so narrowly on a punk/sharpskin aesthetic that it's impossible to get inside Bogus's head, or to extract something resonant from him. "How does one live?" is a question well worth exploring; unfortunately, that tattoo on Bogus's head seems to be the answer--at the least, those big, black, gothic letters prevent us from seeing anything else.

[Read on]


The first production from LCT3, Lincoln Center's initiative to offer new works from emerging artists at commonly affordable prices ($20), is a solo hip-hop musical by and performed by 24 year-old Matt Sax. I wish I liked it more. Or, frankly, at all. While LCT should be commended for stepping outside the cultural box, and Sax clearly has a talent for bustin' rhymes, Clay is deficient as a piece of theatrical writing, lacking discernible conflict until halfway through the show. Sax isn't especially accomplished at delineating character either, and the story he means to tell here of a dysfunctional suburban home life comes off rather whiny when set to a music form that grew out of urban marginalization. While the piece has been given the best staging that could be hoped for (under Eric Rosen's direction) the show's only urgency comes from the hope that its hip-hop music is potential bait for new audiences. But it'd been far better if said new audiences had seen BASH'd earlier this year, a show which ably put rap and hip-hop to stageworthy use in service of legitimate, well-crafted musical theatre.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Angel Eaters

Photo/Justin Hoch

Though it's the first part of a trilogy, Angel Eaters stands pretty well on its own, a Carnivale-like play set in 1937 that mixes mysticism with the family drama of the cursed Hollister family. There isn't much development, but there's a lot of action, as two con men (Gregory Waller and Isaiah Tanenbaum) get more than they bargain for when they promise to resurrect Myrtle's (Catherine Michele Porter) husband, wholly unaware that one of her daughters, Joanne (the marvelous Marnie Schulenberg), really can. Jessi D. Hill uses space and Jennifer Rathbone's lighting to evoke a plausible atmosphere, but when characters start flipping their motivations simply to keep the plot moving, things get a little out of hand. It's still an intriguing play, but it's really the mark of good direction (and better pacing) that we enjoy spending time being entertained by largely soulless characters.

[Read on]

Sunday, November 02, 2008


What are we to make of Mindgame, Anthony Horowitz's new play? Taken as a farce, it can, at times, be delightful, with a particularly hammy Keith Carradine working us up as Doctor Farquar, head of a notorious mental institution, and Kathleen McNenny as a belabored nurse. ("I'm sorry," she intones, "I was a bit tied up," and we know the cut of that jib.) But I'm told Horowitz's novel was a thriller, and taken in that vein, Ken Russell has directed a limp, dead thing, with plot twists obvious from a mile away simply because we know something must happen. This is the play Lee Godart thinks he's in, at least, playing the straight reporter, Mark Styler, without a shred of humor or self-awareness. The result is Poe's The Mansion of Madness desperately trying to be Ira Levin's fantastic Deathtrap, a play which valued motivation over the convenience of plot. Farces about serial killers may not work, but there are a few cuts that at least stand out: "He does not think that anything is the matter with him because one of the problems with him is that he does not believe there is anything wrong with him." The playwright is suffering from this delusion, and he has created this bit of psychotherapy at our expense: try the shock treatment instead, it doesn't last as long.

Arias With A Twist

Except for when he's vocally channeling Billie Holiday with dead-on accuracy, cross-dressed chanteuse Joey Arias can look and sound like the gender-bent answer to Yma Sumac who came from outer space. He's a distinct one-of-a-kind creation whose sounds are often fascinating. In puppetmaster Basil Twist he's found a collaborator whose sensibilities are as distinct as his own, and their creative union has produced a little gem of an evening filled with modestly-scaled theatrical pleasures that delight and tickle the imagination. From Arias' dramatic entrance - bound upright on a metal circle and performing Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" while puppets of aliens gather around him - you're transported to a place you haven't been before, except maybe in the late '70's with Klaus Nomi (who Arias backed way back then). There's a thin narrative thread that I'd prefer wasn't there at all - the show's infrequent spoken segments diminish the oddly magical world of the songs with what feels like old school gay-bar diversion - but essentially the show is an artfully presented, visually entrancing concert as imaginative as it is entertaining.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Glass Cage

Photo/Richard Termine

Revivals are tricky business: do them badly, and no matter how relevant the message, it still seems like a waste of time. Thankfully, The Mint's latest production, The Glass Cage is no bitter pill: instead, this revival of J. B. Priestley's 1956 play about vengeful family members executing an odd turn of class warfare in 1900s' Canada, is a sweet sell. Jean, Angus, and Douglas are estranged members of the wealthy McBane family, and they've been called back by the religious patriarch, David (a fine Gerry Bamman), to settle an inheritance issue left behind by their reckless father. However, they're not as dumb or shy--in fact, argues Douglas (understudy Aaron Krohn), they're more real than the whole family, from womanizing Malcom (Jack Wetherall) to the scowling prude, Mildred (Robin Moseley). This puts Elspie and John (Sandra Struthers-Clerc and Chad Hoeppner), young adults themselves, in the middle of two worlds--republican and libertarian--and they are seduced by both sides. To Priestley's credit, both sides have merits and flaws, and director Lou Jacobs exposes some of the parallels by showing the different uses for a religious altar, and--through the vivacious energies of Jean and Angus (Jeanine Serralles and Saxon Palmer, both at the top of their game as moral rascals)--revealing the similarities that we all share, deep down, in our heart. The only blemish is Roger Hanna's oblique set, a steampunk collection of pipes that lead nowhere and add nothing: the cage is a metaphor, not a gilded maze.