Scripter Jan Alejandro’s pedestrian perusal of the cathartic interactions of four sets of brother/sister duos is neither dramatically compelling nor sociologically revealing. Helmer Kim Glann’s static staging and energy-draining set changes further undermine the capable perfs of a talented ensemble striving to elevate this relentlessly contentious legiter above the level of inconsequential sibling squabbles and reconciliations.
Primarily set in present-day San Francisco, four stand-alone, two-character one-acts are fragmented into scenic slivers, interrupted by ponderous blackouts as Paul DeDoes’ modular set pieces are rearranged. Until the arbitrary final scene’s summing up, none of the relationships have anything to do with one another.
Tooling around the streets of San Francisco in a faux roadster, driver Vickie (Trish Ng) angrily denigrates brother Wayne (Leonard Wu) for his inability to confront their absentee father and command him to pay their ailing mother’s medical bills.
Recent divorcee Samantha (Dana Schwartz), who is in the beginning stages of multiple sclerosis, cannot help but lash out at her gay twin brother, Danny (Brian P. Newkirk), for what she perceives as a monumental lack of emotional support. The same can be said for Gwen (Elizabeth Ann Harris), who is decidedly unhappy with brother Bruce (Nic Garcia), who refuses to empathize with the strong attachment she still feels for her sociopathic husband of 25 years.
In a change of pace, high school graduate Tim (Ben Blair) agonizes over his impending move back East to attend college, leaving his willful deaf younger sister Allison (Jody Stevenson) to cope with a hearing world without him.
Alejandro believably communicates the in-your-face belligerence that can exist when contradictory agendas come between a man and woman who have been united all their lives by blood. But none of the vignettes evolves far enough to establish any compelling relevancy. The brothers and sisters argue and, by the second act, resolve their differences, but the dramatic circumstances leading to these resolutions occur offstage.
The most compelling work is offered by Blair and Stevenson, a deaf actress who exudes a compelling and endearing feistiness. During the course of one failed prom night, they project the comic poignancy of an overprotective older brother watching his sister come of age right in front of him. Thesps both sign and speak their dialogue, adding depth to their lifelong attachment to one another.
At this stage in its development, “Common Bonds” is a tantalizing tidbit that needs more layers and flavors if it is to move beyond its current incarnation.