Bruce Graham's domestic memory play, "Burkie," at the International City Theatre in Long Beach, is cast emotionally in bittersweet shadows. And director Shashin Desai catches many of them.
But among the cast only the scruffy but touching Jack Axelrod, as the dying patriarch and title character, has absorbed the play's tenderness. The other principal performances are rather static and lifeless (Bryan Rasmussen as the narrator son) or whiny and tiresome (Diane Benedict as the quarrelsome daughter).
The production misses the poignancy of the writing, which is personal and compelling on a universal subject--an imminent death in the family and the clashing tribal wars that ensue. The actors vie for attention with the vividly realistic South Philly neighborhood set design, evocatively conveyed in worn, lived-in tones by Ramsey Avery. The set is so good it unfortunately steals the show.