In “Another Way Home”, Anna Ziegler sets out to tell the story of an upper west side Jewish family in distress. Father Philip has been avoiding home life by becoming a workaholic. Mother Lillian, a devoted homemaker, is creatively frustrated. Son Joseph is a troubled, surly adolescent. Daughter Nora is an over-achieving adolescent. The family experiences a crisis when the parents visit Camp Kickapoo where Joseph is spending the summer.
After a screaming confrontation with his Dad, Joseph disappears for many hours and the family worries that he might be suicidal. Over the course of a long worried night, they talk about their feelings and their shared past.
Although there are a few quite moving passages, capable direction and straight forward acting is not enough to save this piece from feeling cliched. These essentially very predictable people are never sufficiently engaged in enough real crisis to stimulate deep emotion. Everyone is just too nice. Even the potential suicide is not believable.
The problems are not helped by some curious dramatic choices on the part of the playwright. Although the setting is realistic (and quite convincing thanks to a fine set and costume design by Annie Smart), Ziegler has chosen to move some of the action through after-the-fact narration rather than straightforward depiction. For example, at one point the parents sit by the lake, obviously distant from one another. Instead of playing the scene, one parent turns to the audience, breaking the fourth wall, to announce something like, “We sat by the lake feeling distant from one another.” It doesn’t work.
The best parts of the evening are in the capable hands of young Daniel Petzold as Joey whose adolescent frustration is well portrayed. Riley Krull as his over achieving sister obsessed with the singer Taylor Swift provides some much needed comic relief.
In the end, though, the occasional emotional resonance achieved by the actors is not enough to rescue this piece from the doldrums of predictability.
“Another Way Home” continues at the Magic Theatre through December 2nd. For further information, click here.
“Another Way Home” by Anna Ziegler, produced by Magic Theatre, directed by Meredith McDonough. Set & Costume Design: Annie Smart. Lighting Design: Paul Toben. Sound Design: Sara Huddleston. Technical Director: Dave Gardner.
Mikw R: Jeremy Kahn. Nora: Riley Krull. Lillian: Kim Martin_Cotten. Joey: Daniel Peltzold. Philip: Mark Pinter.
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