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Stage Review

Kids Not the Only Trouble in 'This Day and Age'

November 12, 1998|T.H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Recently widowed Marjorie is pondering the delights of a new single life in Nagle Jackson's "This Day and Age" at the Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage.

Then Marjorie's luxurious manse in suburban New York is invaded by her children, not to condole or encourage their mother, but to announce their intentions of moving in.

When they learn that Marjorie plans to sell the property, their anger and confusion is boundless. What to do with mother, now that she's lost touch with reality?

The plot of "This Day and Age" is so derivative, from "The Curious Savage" to "Daddy's Dyin', Who's Got the Will," that it clouds Jackson's good writing and his obviously serious intent. His other plays, such as "The Quick-Change Room," a recent hit at Pacific Resident Theatre, look in comparison as though they were by another playwright.

Director Beverly Redman's staging doesn't help. Redman treads lightly along the surface, resulting in a play that looks more like a sitcom than a drama. She has little to say about these dysfunctional adult children desperately trying to hold onto a memory and an inheritance.

The material is there, mostly untouched, and the performances, though very good all down the line, rarely look behind the words for the richness and depth of their reality.

Sam Dawson is Marjorie. Dawson's enthusiasm for life, and her calm acceptance of the lingering presence of her late husband, is right, but her gradual waffling over Marjorie's intentions doesn't ring true. She hasn't found the bridge between her character's strengths and her weaknesses.

Her children, Ann (Diane Taveau) and Tony (Steven Wieber) are a mess. Ann is a dedicated career woman who suddenly wants a baby and obviously wants Marjorie to care for it while she pursues the buck.

Book designer Tony is out of work, unable to handle the reality of earning a living, and wants to bring his wife, Joy, and their three children home to bask in Marjorie's protection.

Taveau digs deeper into her character, neatly balancing Ann's ticking-clock panic with her selfishness. Wieber's Tony begins well but winds up humming one note: the spoiled brat.

As Tony's wife, who is much more intelligent than he is, Sandi Eberhardt has one of those thankless roles the playwright hasn't seen fit to complicate with subtext. But she handles it well and provides at moments more details than are written in.

The richest character, an actor's plum, is Ann's husband, Brian, a transplanted Brit and a philandering lush, who is an announcer on a classical music station. Mark Schuliger easily makes logical bridges between Brian's charming and ironic view of the family and his unbridled need to make passes at the first available woman.

BE THERE

* "This Day and Age," Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage, 5021 E. Anaheim St.. 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Nov. 22, 29 & Dec. 6, $12-$15. Ends Dec. 12. (562) 494-1616. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

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