The recently formed Unitas Theater has made a problematic choice for its inaugural production. Playwright Cindy Lou Johnson's underwhelming sojourn through the intermingled lives of two families over a 19-year period is woefully lacking in character development.

The recently formed Unitas Theater has made a problematic choice for its inaugural production. Playwright Cindy Lou Johnson’s underwhelming sojourn through the intermingled lives of two families over a 19-year period is woefully lacking in character development. The earnest efforts of the Unitas cast members have not received much help from director Charles Waxberg. Spread over the three acts, the concentric rings of family entanglements that follow the attack on and robbery of Andrea (Michelle Correa) on her wedding day fail to reveal any insight other than the factual evolution of the characters’ lives over the course of about two decades.

It appears the traumatic encounter between Andrea and financially desperate robber Bartholomew (Terk Guindy) will not only color the rest of their lives but have an impact on Andrea’s extended family as well: her married older sister, Eloise (Nikki Braendlin), as well as her cousins, Isabella (Renee DeBevoise) and Andrew (Andrew Salamone), among others.

The first act reveals that Andrea’s family has been plagued with much grief of late, including the recent death of Andrea and Eloise’s father and the subsequent suicide of their mother. Complicating things further, Eloise learns shortly before Andrea’s wedding ceremony that hubby Jeffrey (Greg James) has been fooling around and now wants a divorce. The act ends with an extremely unconvincing airport waiting room chance meeting between Andrew and a monumentally angst-ridden stranger who turns out to be Bartholomew; it seems the latter had only mugged Andrea out of a desperation to acquire the funds necessary to escape to a better life.

The second act, set 13 years later, focuses on another wedding, the second marriage of Eloise. None of the gathered family members seems to have aged or matured much over the years. And the playwright still feels it is unnecessary to provide incidental information about how these people live their lives or earn a living. And surprise, surprise! Bartholomew, now a very successful businessman, just happens to save the ever-victimized Andrea from a drunken attacker (Craig Christman) and is shocked to discover that his mugging of her 13 years earlier continues to affect her psyche.

Set three years later, the final act serves as a philosophical summary of everyone’s life. The shock of meeting Andrea again has turned Bartholomew’s life into a shambles. Andrew, who became a renowned photographer, has died just before a major exhibit of his work. As Isabella eulogizes her brother, the remaining cousins ostensibly reach a new level of understanding and forgiveness. The audience has to take them at their word.

The Years

Stella Adler Theater; 99 seats; $15 top

Production

A Unitas Theater Co. presentation of a play in three acts by Cindy Lou Johnson. Directed by Charles Waxberg.

Creative

Sets, Waxberg; lights, Kathleen Edison. Opened, reviewed July 10, 2002; closes Aug. 8. Running time: 2 HOURS, 20 MIN.

Cast

Andrea - Michelle Correa Bartholomew - Terk Guindy Isabella - Renee DeBevoise Andrew - Andrew Salamone Eloise - Nikki Braendlin Jeffrey - Greg James Man - Craig Christman
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