Playwright Lee Blessing has a pitch-perfect ear for exasperated teenspeak in this comedic drama (which debuted at last year’s Humana Festival) about the awkward, broken-down relationship between an 18-year-old girl and her well-intentioned ex-stepfather.
The story also involves a road trip, crummy motels, an abortion, Chlamydia, marital infidelity and references to gang rape, incest and molestation. All that’s missing is a drug habit and this would be prime material (if I may steal a line from Showtime’s “United States of Tara”) for a “Lifetime lady tampon movie.”
That’s not to say there isn’t meat on this bone. The relationships that form in step-families are complicated and frequently ill-defined. What happens, Blessing asks, when a marriage ends and a philandering step-dad is out on his ass, estranged from a kid he once supposedly cared about?
Allison Torem plays the girl—sullen and vulnerable, with a knack for the penetrating putdown; she names a stuffed animal “Vicious Penis Destroyer.”
Darrell W. Cox is the stepfather, a writer by trade and dorky suburbanite by dress. (Darcy Elora Hofer’s costumes for Cox are like quotation marks: the fanny pack, the mom jeans, the white sneakers—cliches that feel painted on.) He’s not easy to like; so self-involved that he breaks down sobbing as they wait in the lobby of an abortion clinic while his stepdaughter sits stoically nearby, trying to get him to shut up.
But before that can happen, they embark on a roadtrip that is meant to draw them together. Or offer some kind of closure. Or shed light on who they are as individuals. I’m not sure I actually cared by the end, which is the play’s main drawback; plentiful melodrama laced with sarcasm (yeay!) but the payoff is zilch and Cox’s character is never fully realized in human terms.
That said, Blessing can write a funny line. His sense of humor does most of the heavy lifting and director Joe Jahraus’ staging matches it beat for beat with just the right comedic timing. (Nina Metz)
At Profiles Theatre, 4147 N. Broadway, (773)549-1815 or www.profilestheatre.org. Thu-Sat 8p/Sun 7p. $25-$30. Through March 1.