Was Cain a victim? Was he predestined to commit a mortal sin? Might he have suffered from a chemical imbalance? Bad karma? How can one sibling be so very different than another when both were raised in the same environment? Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies dramatically explores a similar idea in a modern twist with his recent play, “Long Lost. “
Black sheep big brother Billy (Kris Anderson) is an unwelcome surprise visitor in his little brother David’s mid-town corporate office. Little bro David (David Nathanielsz) is cordial, guarded but definitely distant. David’s wife Molly (Maryhelen Lounello) is even less enthusiastic of Billy’s re-emergence when David brings Billy to their well-appointed home. Only Billy’s nephew — Jeremy (Ryan Fuchs) — offers a semi-kind word. Why all the smoldering hostility? Billy hasn’t had an easy life. But how much of that was of his own doing? According to David and Molly, all of it was his own fault.
But Billy is wearing different glasses and sees the landscape in a different light. Should Billy be pitied or pilloried? Are David and Molly overreacting? Where does empathy end? Should it?
Curtain Call’s thoughtful production is well cast, centered by an absorbing performance by Anderson. Affable and breezy, Anderson deftly hints at the menace, never overplaying the omen. Nathanielsz and Lounello wonderfully balance the worry and the weary with no whine and Fuchs darts near the flame, tempted. All four handle the emotions with elan.
There is no twist-ending to “Long Lost”; the play’s denouement is indicated twenty minutes into the evening. But that misstep doesn’t mean the last scene is not effective — it is, the playwright’s dialogue crackles with simple truth. Fuchs, and especially Anderson, are wonderful in these final moments, never pushing the pathos, allowing the emotions to just bubble, pop, never allowing a rolling boiling. Perfect.
Tautly directed by Carol Max, the production zips by at about 80 minutes and is highly complimented by Andy Nice’s elegant and spare set design. Fluid and functional, Nice’s clever setting is a perfect palette for Lily Fossner’s artful lighting and Alex Dietz-Kest’s austere soundscape.
What could be dismissed as mini soap opera in the hands of a less skilled playwright, Margulies’ “Long Lost is a quiet short story with heft, that doesn’t completely manipulate — simply presents — asking the tough questions many of us face of familial responsibility and its limits. Well worth a visit.
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 1 Jeanne Jugan Lane, Latham
WHEN: Through May 15
HOW MUCH: $30
MORE INFO: 518-877-7529, Curtaincalltheatre.com