Bill Doncaster’s TWO BOYS LOST (presented by Stickball Productions through Oct. 25th) is a riveting tale of one stressed out family—It could be any family, give or take a bad break or two—on Christmas Eve. Christmas does that to people but bickering is already an art to the Molineaux clan. They can implode just as easily over calzone as they can over Jimmy, the schizophrenic son whose demons keep him homeless and terrified.
In his few lucid moments, Jimmy worries about his brother, Eddie, who has taken on the responsibility and burden of rescuing him. As boys, they played at saving each other from pirates and sundry dangers, calling themselves “the two lost boys.” Now it’s true. Jimmy is lost in train tunnels and brain tunnels. His loving brother feels he’s lost control of his life, on call 24/7 to rescue Jimmy from street situations, police stations and thieves who will even steal his shoes. If that’s not enough to push a man over the edge, Eddie has a nasty ex who tries to keep him from seeing his son. And he has his own demanding mother to contend with.
Doncaster writes lovely, funny dialogue for solid, compelling characters. When the sister arrives back at her mother’s after running errands, she finds her brother and mother going at it hammer and tong. “Is this still or again?” she quips sarcastically. And Doncaster cleverly creates a character with clear vision and enough distance to see every other character’s flaws. Eddie’s treasure of a second wife is the calm, cool voice of reason.
Happily, director James Peter Sotis has a dream cast to animate these complex characters: Cheryl McMahon is a force to be reckoned with as Ma, the proud, strong-willed, difficult to please mother who lays down the law for the Molineaux family. Ma has her reasons and McMahon manages to soften her character so we can see she’s not made of stone. James Bocock gives a powerful performance as Eddie, awash in heartbreak, as he watches his brother and his dreams slip away. Jade Guerra as “the good wife” radiates wisdom and strength—and she’s delightfully funny, as well.
As Jimmy, Brett Milanowski skillfully captures the visceral pain of mental illness: We see it eating at him, torturing him with guilt and paranoia. Shawna Ciampa, too, as Jimmy and Eddie’s sister, captures the fragility that comes from constant worry.
The evening opens with a treat, a curtain raiser, a cheeky, comic ten minute piece called STEP ON ME by Lisa Wagner Erickson. It sounds masochistic…well, it is masochistic, but not in the conventional sense. Liz Michael Hartford and Michael Towers taunt and tease each other until she submits to his entreaties, but not in the conventional way. That’s all I’m saying about it.