Blair Singer’s catharsis-laden legiter probes the motivations of three individuals as each attempts to persuade an unseen adoption agency rep of his or her worthiness to parent an available child. The adoption device is a feeble contrivance to unite what is in essence an expose of three damaged psyches. Helmer Matt Shakman elicits powerful, multilayered perfs from a talented trio of thesps that stand on their own without the clumsy allusion to child placement.
In an obtuse exercise in how not to get what you want, three candidates to be the adoptive parent of an infant girl speak directly to the audience, which subs as the agency pro. Each spirals off on an emotional tangent that has nothing to do with the desire to be chosen. In the process, Singer loses focus but proves herself an intriguing chronicler of the dark side of human nature. In the opening vignette, Beverly Hills matron Nancy (Lee Garlington), the ultra-Wasp adoptive parent of a 19-year-old African-American girl, coolly justifies her suitability to take on another child by declaring that her current daughter is at Yale and the next one will be, too. She then lays out, in self-composed but vivid detail, the horrific emotional war she has fought with a ragingly unhappy black teen who knows she has been nothing but a white woman’s “project” all her life. Garlington masterfully communicates Nancy’s effort to remain in control even as she reveals the situations of her life that “mutilate my soul.”
Next up is Ronnie (Blake Robbins), a successful, hard-driving businessman who sets out to correct an evaluation by the agency that he and his emotionally fragile wife are not good candidates. Ronnie explains the couple’s horrific history of failure in adoption attempts, including being duped out of a large amount of cash by a lesbian couple from Seattle and entangled in the sexual perversions of a Louisville, Ky., couple he met online. Robbins is impressively committed as Ronnie declares his revelations actually serve his cause to become a parent.
In the final seg, agenda-conflicted Tess (Katie Firth) must explain her past with men to the person deciding whether she should be a mother. In compelling detail, Firth’s Tess conjures up her disastrous marriage to Bill, a former college instructor turned alcoholic, and long-term involvement with a 16-year-old boy, with whom she shares a pregnancy and an abortion. Current hubby Nick is a producer who gets her work scripting for TV.
“Placement” would have stronger legs if Singer simply allowed her three jaundiced souls to reveal themselves to the universe without the contrivance of being interviewed by one of modern civilization’s most conservative organizations, a legal adoption agency. The perfs warrant it.