by Richard Dodds
Stop me if you've heard this one before: A middle-aged couple whose marriage has soured finds renewed connections when a crisis befalls one of their children. You may be holding up the stop sign at this point, but I'm carrying on because there are moments in Another Way Home when interesting little twists can freshen a scenario that has been so well trod in plays, movies, and TV series. Magic Theatre is presenting the world premiere of Anna Ziegler's play in director Meredith McDonough' sleekly stripped-down and well-acted production.
Ziegler's plays have been widely produced in regional theaters, festivals, and developmental productions, and in Another Way Home she displays a skill for brittle and biting dialogue that can often be disguised as part of passive-aggressive exchanges. She also frames the play with running commentary and narration by the husband and wife who are not always in agreement on how the story should be told. This recurring device further helps theatrically enliven a modest core story.
That story takes place on a parents' day at the summer camp where 17-year-old Joey is a counselor in training. Philip and Lillian, with cranked-up good cheer, are there to visit their son, who they tell the audience has been diagnosed with numerous psychological ailments beginning with ADD and currently settled on ODD – "oppositional defiant disorder." Joey sullenly accepts his parents' visit up to a point, and when that point is passed, the ultimately cathartic crisis begins to unfold.
The characters don't run particularly deep, but they are effectively played by the five-member cast. As the mother, Kim Martin-Cotton has perhaps the most interesting character and makes the most of it. Mark Pinter gets to show less range as the father, who is outlined in rather obvious strokes. Daniel Petzoid convincingly plays morose Joey, who his father tells us "seems to be angry to be in the world." As Joey's only confidante, Jeremy Kahn is an appealing presence as a camp counselor. Riley Krull plays the family's "good" child, who mainly interacts with other characters via telephone.
Annie Smart's set design, mostly a collection of handsomely designed levels, lets the 80-minute play smoothly unfold. Another Way Home is not a play that can sustain many interruptions.
Another Way Home will run at Magic Theatre through Dec. 2. Tickets are $22-$62. Call 441-8822 or go to www.magictheatre.org.