BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
OFF BROADWAY REVIEW
Heavily symbolizing the disintegration of a blue-collar family, their squalid Connecticut house literally falls apart during "Blood From A Stone." The porch collapses, ceiling tiles sporadically crash down and rain cascades in while flailing relatives smash out windows and punch holes in the walls.
The biggest hole, however, is dead center in the back story of Tommy Nohilly's dismal new drama, which opened Wednesday at Theatre Row.
The playwright never actually reveals what made the marriage of Bill (Gordon Clapp) and Margaret (Ann Dowd) turn so rocky way back when. Instead, Nohilly's contemporary drama depicts how the sins of this ceaselessly wrangling couple are manifested in the erratic lives of their adult sons Travis (Ethan Hawke) and Matt (Thomas Guiry).
Both men are purposeless in general, careless about people they presumably love and accustomed to taking handouts of cash from their stony parents. Their feckless behavior is exhibited over several days while pill-popping Gulf War vet Travis trifles with an old flame (Daphne Rubin-Vega) and the thieving Matt announces his intentions to divorce his wife and move back home with a new girlfriend.
Meanwhile Bill furiously storms around and Margaret never stops griping.
They're a miserable bunch and, worse, not especially interesting people, which makes more than two and a half hours of observing their dreary doings a drag.
In spite of some good acting — portraying a relatively sensitive member of the family, Hawke's mix of emotions ranging from tenderness to revulsion is handsomely layered — and the bleary realism of director Scott Elliott's production (Derek McLane provides the eyesore setting that takes quite a beating), the play fails to build momentum and simply staggers along from one outburst to another.
Establishing its reputation by staging Mike Leigh's ultra-realistic British comedy-dramas like "Ecstasy" back in the mid-1990s, The New Group has maintained a particular fondness for producing hyper-real works. So one can understand why the company chose to develop a gritty Rust Belt melodrama like "Blood From A Stone." Unfortunately, due to its blunt writing and mostly charmless characters, this grubby kitchen sink-style drama goes right down the drain.
"Blood From A Stone" continues through Feb. 19 at Theatre Row, 410 W. 42nd St., New York. Call (212) 239-6200 or visit www.thenewgroup.org.