QUICK TAKE REVIEW
By Beverly Creasey
Everyone has peculiar kith and kin. Some families are closer than others while some are downright detrimental. Boston Playwrights’ Theatre has a stunning “family” drama up and running through Nov. 22nd. Monica Bauer’s CHOSEN CHILD may seem like familiar territory at first, but you realize pretty quickly that this puzzle of a family thrives on deception. From then on you have to sort out the details as this compelling new script plays itself out.
Bauer cleverly engages the audience, providing clues right up to the end. That’s when all the puzzle pieces fall into place for a rewarding psychological overview, like the cosmonauts who could see The Great Wall from space. Each generation, like dominoes in forward motion, has a powerful trajectory to contend with, not to mention the dangerous DNA which may be lurking in their genes.
David, at ten, dreams of becoming the first Jewish astronaut. He’s extraordinarily bright, a little precocious and not very social. At twenty he’s schizophrenic and bereft, except for an imaginary friend. You might surmise that CHOSEN CHILD is an agonizing tragedy. Far from it: Bauer makes this family’s travails quite funny at times, and then deeply affecting, before delivering a nifty, redemptive twist. Her dialogue is delightfully acerbic, especially for the Ph.D. in psychology who rails with righteous indignation at the social worker trying to impart professional advice to her on the subject of death.
Debra Wise is hilarious as the relative whose unwanted responsibility it is to decide about cremation. (Wise has one of the best quips in the play about just that.) Bauer moves her characters back and forth in time, with the same actors, so we meet Wise as a sensitive teenager who soon will become the cautious, armor plated adult. Lewis Wheeler, too, moves from innocent childhood to quirky schizophrenic adulthood. His scene with a Port Authority ticket agent is as humorous as it is exasperating.
Lee Mikeska Gardner, too, must morph from wild, out of control teenager to ill equipped, young single mother, then to overwhelmed caretaker of a schizophrenic. Everyone in director Megan Schy Gleeson’s cast contributes to “keeping things whole.” Margaret Ann Brady portrays “Grandma Lee” from the get-go as someone who copes as best she can. Brady gives her a physicality which weighs her down and only late in the play, do we learn of the burden which weighs on her mind.
Melissa Jesser is charming as the “others” in the story not directly involved in the Omaha “Sturm und Drang” (i.e. the bemused but compassionate ticket agent/ the frustrated social worker/and the rebellious teenage daughter in a subsequent generation.) When all is said and done, you feel for these characters caught up in circumstances beyond their control. Bauer’s compassionate and novel take on the “family” play makes CHOSEN CHILD a must see this season.