When it comes to community and contact, city dwellers take our myriad options for granted. We surround ourselves with like-minded people, and when our minds fail to meet, we move on to other companions. We’re spared the toil that’s traditionally part and parcel of creating meaningful relationships: seeing each other through tough times, working through conflict, sticking around to pick up the pieces. Madeleine George’s look at our species’ struggle to maintain our “families” is an intelligent, erudite and sharply humorous chronicle of an “alternative kinship structure” that threatens to crumble.
Dean Wreen (Meighan Gerachis) fights to keep her financially strapped university afloat; to make room for a new dorm, she closes her school’s under-used natural history museum and unleashes a PR maelstrom in the surrounding college town. Simultaneously, her ex-lover Greer (Laura Fisher) returns home to recuperate from a second, less hopeful round of chemo alongside her ex’s new girlfriend, the crunchy granola Andromeda (Kristen Magee). The situation is, as the characters often repeat, complicated.
George’s smart, snappy dialogue deftly satirizes the pompous self-interest the academic community is famous for, while plumbing the melancholia and fear that comes with facing the end: of life, of a relationship or an era that one’s nostalgia refuses to let go. The ensemble effortlessly captures the quick emotional changes the script requires: Fisher’s deadpan delivery and intellectual sparring with Magee is a highlight. Magee invests her character with enough heart and sincerity that you feel guilty for dismissing her new age leanings. Gerachis effectively negotiates her steam-rolling dean’s takedown; she successfully transitions from the woman in charge to a woman looking hopefully to others for direction.
Jeremy Wechsler’s staging creates sight gags and visual portraits that tie our relationship struggles to our anthropological tradition, suggesting that these difficulties are nothing new. Joe Schermoly’s multi-level, hardwood set complements Scott Pillsbury’s lighting effects to suggest an eternity that endures. It’s a hopeful look at an unconventional family working to strengthen its bond. (Lisa Buscani)
Theater Wit, 1229 West Belmont, theaterwit.org, (773)975-8150, $20-$36. Through April 27.