Review: ‘The Young Girl and the Monsoon’

There's probably a very good one-act play in James Ryan's "The Young Girl and the Monsoon," but in reaching for a larger vision the playwright has overwhelmed it. At its best when it focuses on the strained relationship between its main character, a photojournalist in his late 30s, and his preteen daughter, the play all too frequently meanders to other characters. No doubt intended to add resonance to the central drama, these secondary plots instead draw attention away from it.

Photojournalist Hank (Michael O’Keefe) does manage to identify the source of his emotional distance from his daughter, Constance (Shannon Burkett), but exactly when and how he achieves the revelation is unclear. It may be that author Ryan means for the awareness to be the result of Hank’s having listened to the other characters analyze their own troubled relationships, but that is left to conjecture.

In Constance, Ryan has created a delightful character, full of wonder and passion, brought to life by Burkett (in her Off Broadway debut). O’Keefe plays the central role of Hank with a laid-back authority, and the leads are given solid support by Susan Floyd, as Hank’s young girlfriend, Erin, and Marilyn Chris, who makes the most of her role as Hank’s confidante, a lesbian who provides an interesting twist on the cliche of the leading lady’s gay male best friend. Also good in parts that have only a tenuous connection to the main plot are Saundra Santiago, as Hank’s boss, and Todd Gearhart, as a fellow journalist.

The Young Girl and the Monsoon

New York

Production

A Playwrights Horizons presentation of a play in two acts by James Ryan. Directed by William Carden. Sets, David Harwell

Creative

Costumes, Therese Bruck; lighting, Chris Dallos; sound, Bruce Ellman; casting, James Calleri; production stage manager, Judith Schoenfeld. Artistic director, Tim Sanford. Opened April 27, 1997, at Playwrights Horizons Studio Theater. Reviewed April 26; 72 seats; $15 top. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast

Cast: Michael O'Keefe (Hank), Shannon Burkett (Constance), Susan Floyd (Erin), Saundra Santiago (Giovanna), Todd Gearhart (Jack), Marilyn Chris (Faye)
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