Mark Stein's comedy is structured on convoluted expositional revelations by a family of fruitcakes, rather than a coherent plot. Oprah and Montel would have a field day with the domestic turbulence that abounds in "Relativity."

Mark Stein’s comedy is structured on convoluted expositional revelations by a family of fruitcakes, rather than a coherent plot. Oprah and Montel would have a field day with the domestic turbulence that abounds in “Relativity.”

The calm life of husband Neil (Michael Rupert) is gradually shattered by a paranoid, fantasizing sister, Audrey (Kit Flanagan); an elusively obsessive mother, Vera (Doris Belack); a mysterious cousin, Kirby (David S. Howard); and a doubting, unsatisfied wife, Susan (Laura Sametz).

A barrage of half-truths and blatant lies dominate the conversation as the family members cross-examine one another with hammer and tongs. Illegitimacy, incest, adultery and a marriage on the rocks are but a few of the subjects explored, leaving the progressively frustrated husband believing that he might be the offspring of a suicidal ex-con.

There are no resolutions here, and few chuckles. Confusion and pandemonium are the order of the day, despite the earnest acting of an attractive cast. Rupert manages to harness the mounting desperation with the convincing edge that he really might understand what the hell is going on. There is flinty energy from Flanagan as the interrogating instigator, while Howard seems uncomfortable in the oddly defined role of the ardent cousin. Sametz adds a satisfying soft glow as the wife who, for a time, seems to be the only stable character in this murky comic maze.

Deborah Jasien’s single living room set is appropriately middle-class bland, as is Barbara Forbes’ everyday garb. Gregory Hurst has staged the nonsense with a keen sense of pace. It all goes nowhere quite briskly.

Relativity

Production

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. A George Street Theater Playhouse presentation of a play in two acts by Mark Stein. Directed by Gregory S. Hurst.

Crew

Set, Deborah Jasien; costumes, Barbara Forbes; lighting, Donald Holder, John Lasiter; sound, Jeff Willens; stage manager, Rachel S. Levine. Producing artistic director, Hurst; managing director, Diane Glaussen. Opened Oct. 29, 1994, at the George Street Playhouse. Reviewed Nov. 4; 360 seats; $ 30 top. Running time:1 HOUR, 25 MIN.

With

Neil ... Michael Rupert Audrey ... Kit Flanagan Vera ... Doris Belack Susan ... Laura Sametz Kirby ... David S. Howard
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