Plays about boisterous family reunions, whether the far-flung members are gathering to fight over a will, bury an aunt or celebrate a matriarch's birthday, have become an increasingly popular staple of small theaters.
The best of the clan dramas--and we're thinking of the recent "South Central Rain," "Daddy's Dyin', Who's Got the Will?" and the current "So Long on Lonely Street"--have been earmarked by textured, countrified settings and crisp ensemble acting. The material may be a predictable and safe bet, but there's no denying the comic and traumatic potential.
The family misadventure "Summer Wind," premiering at the Alliance Repertory Co. in Burbank, is the latest foray into the shattering effects of reining together disparate members of a family. The production's weathered clapboard farm setting by Jeff Klarin suggests the edge of a neglected cornfield, and a hot, arid summer breeze is dryly palpable in Ken Booth's lighting design.
Into this heat wave playwright Jean Van Tuyle drops five adult sisters and a brother, arriving to celebrate the 65th birthday of their tough, whip-cracking mother, jubilantly played by Molly McClure (who also played the momma in "Daddy's Dyin' "--she's becoming the '80's answer to Marjorie Main). The strong female slant is interesting, but there are so many svelte blondes running around here that sometimes the ambiance suggests Rodeo Drive instead of a spread in Central Illinois.