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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at Laura Pels Theatre


  Christopher Denham and David Morse/ Ph: Joan Marcus

The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin, Steven Levenson’s sober-minded, contemporary domestic drama, explores whether it is possible for a once powerful, now disgraced man to return home to the family that was hurt and humiliated by the revelation of his white-collar crime, especially after they have worked so hard to move on with their lives.

The play’s very title implies the answer. No matter how hard he tries, no matter how many tricks he has up his sleeve, no one wants to talk to Tom Durnin (chillingly played by David Morse), especially his wife Karen (Lisa Emery) and son-in-law Chris (Rich Sommer), who works at the firm where Tom was a senior partner.

In spite of initial resistance, Tom convinces his emotionally damaged son James (an excellent Christopher Denham) to let him sleep on his couch. He also tracks down Karen and tries to blackmail Chris into getting him rehired at the office – in spite of the fact that Tom has been disbarred. At the moment, Tom is working as a barista at a chain bookstore. He also manages to get in the way of James’ promising romance with a painfully shy girl (the endearing Sarah Goldberg), possibly out of pure spite.

The play, which runs just under two hours with no intermission, makes for a very truthful and often powerful character study. It is undeniably relevant in a post-Bernard Madoff era and raises many interesting questions. Has Tom already served his debt to society? But even if he has, does that mean he is entitled to forgiveness? And in his defense, how has his family really been harmed except financially?

However, it remains quite difficult to enjoy a play about an absolutely dislikable, non-sympathetic and unapologetic character. The scenes can also be quite long-winded and, in the end, don’t add up to very much in terms of a climax. Director Scott Ellis has staged the drama in an especially muted manner. Although this may honor the intentions of the playwright, a livelier staging could have made it less oppressive in tone. But even if it is unexciting, The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin will surely be one of the most provocative dramas to come out this summer. 


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