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REVIEW: ‘We Live Here’ offers traditional sorrows

welive8101311_optZoe Kazan writes about a seemingly happy family shadowed by tragedy

BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
OFF BROADWAY REVIEW

Zoe Kazan is a rising young actress whose stage work in recent seasons includes striking performances in “A Behanding in Spokane,” “100 Saints You Should Know” and the “Angels in America” revival.

What’s more, Kazan is a budding playwright whose “We Live Here” opened on Wednesday in a handsome world premiere production by Manhattan Theatre Club at New York City Center-Stage I.

Commissioned by MTC and developed partly at the Public Theater, “We Live Here” is a not entirely rewarding play regarding dark family secrets. Don’t expect “August: Osage County.” But for the most part Kazan’s drama certainly maintains interest and confirms her to be a writer of fair promise.

Kazan’s nicely-composed piece of traditional naturalism unfolds nowadays in the New England home of the well-off Bateman family on the eve of a summer wedding.

Althea (Jessica Collins) is about to marry Sandy (Jeremy Shamos). Her younger sister Dinah (Betty Gilpin) brings home Daniel (Oscar Isaac), a surprise escort whose appearance disconcerts their parents Maggie (Amy Irving) and Lawrence (Mark Blum). Althea nearly faints when she sees him.

welivehere6101211_optA 30-ish professor who met Dinah at Juilliard, Daniel turns out to be a formerly close friend of the older Batemans from his teenager days. Dinah and Daniel did not realize the connection – she was only six when he last saw her -- until after their romance began.

Once the Batemans recover, they appear delighted to welcome their dear Daniel back into their happy midst. But as cozy day fades into stormy night, the bride-to-be Althea turns increasingly hostile.

In the play’s second act, an extended flashback to a dozen years before reveals a tragedy about a third sibling that still haunts the family.

All of this exposition and back-story flows naturally enough – Kazan writes graceful conversations and creates likeable, interesting characters – but the problem with her drama is that it represents an awful lot of wind-up for a not so powerful conclusion. Viewers hoping for an adventurously-styled play will find “We Live Here” to be a tame piece of old-fashioned stage architecture.



 

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