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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
CLOSE TIES
at the Ensemble Studio Theatre

DEATH COMES AS THE END
By SANDY MACDONALD

  Fiona Gallagher and Judith Roberts/Ph:Zack Brown

Country-house parties can be so relaxing ordinarily. But imagine one in which you're confined to the kitchen and forced to observe every last host-family interaction. No dips in the pond or mountain hikes for you. Facing the fourth wall as if peering past the glass of an ant farm, you're treated to a closeup view of the various generations working out their issues- the foremost being whether it's time to commit grandmother ( Judith Roberts, who veers impressively between flighty and fierce) to an old-age home.

The problem with the do-not-go-gentle genre is that the outcome is rarely in question. It's just a matter of when. And with the plodding, repetitive, rarely insightful dialogue that playwright Elizabeth Diggs provides, 2 1/2 hours is way too long to wait.

It's a shame to see so high-octane a cast wasted on so pedestrian a vehicle. Fiona Gallagher is especially arresting as Evelyn, the problem adult child ( feisty Grandmother's favorite), even if she's ultimately one-upped by her recessive younger sibling (Julie Fitzpatrick). Carole Monferdini extracts empathy as the long-suffering sandwich generation, getting grief from both sides. If Tommy Schrider is a bit too peppy and perfect as Evelyn's persistent boyfriend, Jack Davidson is both boisterous and tender as her teenage brother, the family postscript.

Director Pamela Berlin moves the material along briskly enough there's just far too much of it, ineffectually mustered. The grandmother, when she's cogent, obsesses that the climbing roses desperately want cutting back. Sometimes playwrights need to heed their own subtext.

 

 


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