The characters in Chad Beguelin’s comedy-drama are hopelessly — and sometimes hysterically — adrift as they seek safe havens in relationships, family and career. But the harbors here are built on shifting sands in this wickedly funny play receiving a solidly acted and staged world preem production at the Westport Playhouse.
Nicely capturing the zeitgeist of contemporary gay relationships, this witty and tender play is appealing. But the frosh non-tuner effort by Beguelin (“The Wedding Singer,” “Elf”) needs more deepening of its glib characters if it expects to sail anywhere close to Gotham’s shores.
The picture-perfect life of architect and breadwinner Ted (Paul Anthony Stewart) and younger partner Kevin (Bobby Steggert), a writer who has yet to write anything substantial, is shaken when Kevin’s low-brow, single-parent sister Donna (Kate Nowlin) and her wise-child Lottie (Alexis Molnar) arrive unexpectedly at the couple’s Sag Harbor home.
“The genetic pool drained all over our hardwood floors,” sighs Kevin, torn between his “poor white Christmas trash” sibling and his dreamhouse-dreamboat life.
Donna announces she is pregnant to the mortified Lottie and the couple whom she secretly hopes will parent the baby. While Ted is fiercely anti-kiddie, Kevin has a yearning to be a parent that dates back to their childhood, an angle the dominating Donna manipulates to the fullest.
The sister’s power play both threatens and sheds light on the couple’s 10-year-old relationship balance — and unnerves the 15-year-old Lottie, who has her own dreams of a life where she isn’t “van schooled,” on the run or playing the adult to her born-to-be-wild mother.
Beguelin has a gift for clever lines and vivid descriptions. (“It looks like I put on my makeup with the butt of a gun,” sighs Donna as she spruces up for her surprise appearance in the Hamptons.) But the characters too often share the same snap-happy voice and, aside from a few sketchy details, the couple’s lives are as thin as the veneer in their Greek Revival home.
But in Donna and Lottie, scribe created two memorable characters. Nowlin plays the delusional, disgraceful and crafty Donna to the hilt, managing to be pathetic and captivating, self-aware and oblivious. (“Magical cupcakes don’t come flying out my ass,” she tells her daughter.) Molnar, who evokes the sharp deadpan of Sarah Gilbert in “Roseanne,” is also impressive as the weary, desperate and lonely Lottie.
Steggert, as the impressionable Kevin, effectively shows the cost of his character’s re-invention for “a life of wind chimes and fresh basil” as he comes to terms with his own deep-seated needs and some truths about Ted. Stewart, who delivers a terrific tirade against parental entitlements, also makes his character’s learning curve believable, understandable and touching.
But there’s more work to be done to make these two characters as compelling as the other two survivalists — and to give this promising work a solid mooring.