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Minutes from the Blue Route

Minutes From the Blue Route" misses by a mile. The Atlantic Theater Company's production of Tom Donaghy's brittle seriocomic play takes aim at the emotional isolation within a typical suburban family, hardly a novel concept made even more tiresome by the playwright's emphasis on style over substance. With characters adhering to the strict rules of Mamet-speak (David Mamet co-founded the Atlantic), "Blue Route" features lots of overlapping sentence fragments and talking at cross purposes (not to mention easy jokes about suburbia), all of which is meant to signify characters who can't say what's in their hearts and minds. Of course, they eventually do come out with it (Mamet's the inspiration, not Pinter), but by the time the characters get to that point we've already passed it.

Elizabeth Franz (Mother), Matt McGrath (Oldest), Stephen Mendillo (Father), Catherine Kellner (Youngest).

Play falls into the Prodigal Son With AIDS genre, as a young man from the city (Matt McGrath) spends a Labor Day weekend with his parents and younger sister in the ‘burbs. Much is made early on by the very nervous mother (Elizabeth Franz) about how well the young man “looks,” so the audience probably will catch on to his HIV status sooner than the playwright intends.

The young man has been summoned by the parents to convince his 21-year-old sister, who’s moved back home, to return to college, a situation given some dramatic weight by the fact that the parents want to sell the family home, move into an apartment and put aside a nest egg in preparation for the son’s eventual illness.

That simple plot is stretched over nearly two hours of aborted conversations and red-herring digressions (a car accident, a badly acted drunk scene, continual packing and unpacking). Director David Warren hasn’t found the pace that could make the stylized dialogue work, and even as written, much of the play’s humor misses the mark, such as the repeated references to the tacky holiday tchotchkes Oldest sells in a shop owned by his lover. (Oldest also is a professional magician, an odd detail that would seem to warrant more symbolic import than the play provides.)

The actors give mannered performances, but then they’re struggling to flesh out characters as generically written as they are named. McGrath has the least luck, and with his frozen, wide-eyed smile and flat, affectless delivery, seems to be doing a disconcertingly dead-on impersonation of Mary Louise Parker

Minutes from the Blue Route

NEW YORK ;Opened Jan. 30, 1997, at the Atlantic Theater165 seats; $32.

Production: An Atlantic Theater Company presentation of a play in two acts by Tom Donaghy. Directed by David Warren. Set, Derek McLane; costumes, Mark Wendland

Crew: lighting, Donald Holder; sound, original music, John Gromada; production stage manager, Janet Takami. Running time: 1 HOUR, 50 MIN.

With: Elizabeth Franz (Mother), Matt McGrath (Oldest), Stephen Mendillo (Father), Catherine Kellner (Youngest).

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