In Jamie Pachino’s “Waving Goodbye,” Perry (Hope Shapiro), a caustic art dealer with a heart of gold, remarks about the nature of artistic creation, “It doesn’t all have to be trauma and angst, you know.” This is a valid observation, because the play shows creativity as a continuously agonizing process. Such endless suffering, accompanied by weighty analytical observations, frequently threatens to topple Pachino’s drama, and it’s fortunate that she provides enough humor and romance to keep it on solid ground.
Against Sybil Wickersheimer’s imaginatively constructed New York loft, with huge intersecting concrete beams, ladders, picture frames and skylight, the story introduces Lily (Heather Fox), a 17-year-old who mourns the mountain-climbing demise of her father, Jonathan (Scott Cummins), and despises Amanda (Michelle Duffy), her neglectful mother, for choosing career over parenthood. Amanda wants to sell their home to obliterate Jonathan’s memory, despite Lily’s opposition, and this triggers confrontations that form the basis of the plot.
Since both women are whining victims, the dialogue slides into soap opera (“I don’t know you at all,” and a scream, “Why does everybody leave?”). It works better when the emotion is rage rather than self-pity (“I don’t want to make friends with you. … I don’t want to know you better.”).
What sparks the production is Lily’s relationship with Boggy (Damien Midkiff), a playful, affectionate test pilot’s son who speaks with scrambled syntax and kids her out of her painful self-absorption. Midkiff is a show in himself, juggling riotous riddles with compassionate insights and pressing gently toward sexual involvement.
Director Martin Bedoian does a wonderful job of keeping this character endearingly light, and when Boggy reaches out and pulls Lily’s paint-drenched hand against his chest, leaving her imprint on his shirt, the moment has a touching truth that outshines other, more melodramatic scenes.
Since we know what road the tale is taking from the start, many of the events have a repetitive predictability, and it’s basically a matter of waiting to see how the mother-daughter antagonism will resolve. Before the resolution, flashbacks flesh out their past histories with Jonathan prior to his fatal fall.
As Amanda, Duffy has a serious challenge, since the script rarely allows her a serene moment. She’s the personification of her friend Perry’s statement, “I’m so tired of artists … I just want to know human beings again.” Duffy conquers the role with sheer intensity. She can’t make you like the woman, yet she conveys the fear a wife feels when coping with a husband who constantly risks his life.
At times, Fox has to handle haltingly staccato, self-conscious lines. She’s at her best in her delicately humorous scenes with Midkiff, and projects winning excitement after being told, “It’s official … you’re talented.” Cummins’ Jonathan is written in a more naturalistic style, and he offers a lusty, rousing portrayal of a man fighting to maintain his identity.
Rounding out the cast is Shapiro as Perry. She embodies that time-honored staple, the best friend who watches and serves up direction and wisdom. Sometimes, when the protagonists are going through gut-wrenching frustrations, you wish Pachino would move aside the mountain of anxieties and let Perry dominate. She’s far too colorful a character to remain on the sidelines.