In more literate times, people with sufficient means would write their memoirs and have them bound in deluxe leather volumes by a private printer. Nowadays, they are more likely to put their effort and gelt into a vanity production like the one devised by journeyman film actor Michael Raynor (“Reunion,” “The First Man”). With little more than a few family photographs and some very bad childhood memories, Raynor revisits his past and gets a load of guilt off his chest about his father. Although no doubt therapeutic for the angry and deeply conflicted thesp, show holds little appeal for audience members with their own family scenarios burning their brains.
This industrious actor-scribe has ordered his chaotic memories into coherent if not shapely form. Using oft-repeated projections of a single photo of his father and the tchotchkes in his grandmother’s living room, Raynor holds the stage with his tortured narrative about losing the father who supposedly abandoned him and his sister on his seventh birthday.
Turning the narrative into something of a traveler’s journal, he tells of beginning his journey to rediscover his father only after learning of his death — a terrible death that clearly weighs upon the grown son, who feels driven to clear his father’s name and validate his life.
The bare story is every child’s nightmare, a tale of abandonment by a selfish father who deserts his wife and children and is never heard from again. But that’s only the story as told by the narrator’s mother and her parents. As refuted and amended by a paternal grandmother, the story is even worse, with the boy and his sister not only abandoned by their father but used as pawns by their vindictive mother. The more people who come into the story, the uglier it gets.
As life stories go, it’s a bummer, and one can only sympathize with Raynor. But his telling of the family history is so overwrought — his boiling anger has him leaping all over the stage and giving grotesquely caricatured studies of all the monsters he has known — that one wants to wrestle him down and tie him to a psychiatrist’s couch.