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'A Family For All Occasions' Off Broadway Review: Philip Seymour Hoffman Directs a Dreary Drama

Photo7BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

Bob Glaudini wrote “Jack Goes Boating,” a quirky – and rather sweet -- romantic comedy about a metro area limo driver striving to improve his messy ways for a damaged woman. 

Labyrinth Theater Company, which produced the play in 2007, now premieres Glaudini’s “A Family For All Occasions” at its small Bank Street Theater space in the far West Village.

The production, directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, is well acted and handsomely designed, but the two-act play proves to be an increasingly dismal family affair.

A retired electrician, Howard (Jeffrey DeMunn) is a nice guy but the ineffectual father of two miserable adult offspring. The resentful Sue (Justine Lupe) is a slutty runaround. The sullen Sam (Charlie Saxton) is an unemployed slob who claims to be a genius video game developer. Their weary stepmother May (Deirdre O’Connell) is fairly fed up with everybody but mostly is kept busy toiling at a box factory.

Then Oz (William Jackson Harper) arrives. Sue picked him up in a club. Oz is smart, well-mannered and apparently seriously taken with Sue, who is not so enthused. May is suspicious of Oz’s good intentions, but he soon becomes involved with the family.

That’s act one, more or less, which covers a single day in the family’s house somewhere in the Rust Belt.

Then there is a second act, which choppily transpires in short scenes spanning the next year or so.  Let’s just say that the remainder of Glaudini’s domestic occasion goes terribly flat. The characters’ psychology tends to be either obvious or, in the case of the enigmatic Oz, unfathomable. An unlikely eruption of rage from Howard late in the story seems like a poor contrivance to gin up a desultory scenario.

Presented upon a corner-shaped stage, the production is smoothly paced by Hoffman and it at least allows viewers a close look at the quietly touching performances by DeMunn and O’Connell, whose portraits of Howard and May are wonderfully natural.  The setting, designed by David Meyer, delivers several exceedingly-detailed rooms in a very small space.

The money that Labyrinth evidently lavished on that setting might better have been spent on sending the playwright on a retreat to compose a more satisfying second act.

“A Family For All Occasions” continues through May 26 at the Bank Street Theater, 155 Bank St., New York. Call (212) 513-1080 or visit www.labtheater.org

 

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