The tenacious human need for connection forms the heart of “Kin” at Theatre 40. Bathsheba Doran’s elliptical 2011 comedy-drama about how familial and personal relationships inform each other in this fragmented world receives a proficient albeit over-attenuated West Coast premiere.
Motifs are established at once, as director Jules Aaron assembles his players looking enigmatically out at us. A shift of designer Jeff G. Rack’s austere set cues up the first of “Kin’s” interlocking encounters, as boorish Columbia professor Simon (Alan Aymie) filibusters Anna (Melissa Collins), his adjunct, about why he’s ending their affair, his solipsism both funny and perilously calculated.
Thankfully, Doran folds nuances into her syntax with each successive scene and character. Such as Helena (Elizabeth Lande), Anna’s passive-aggressive actress friend, whose neurotically satirical makeup masks a genuinely poignant loneliness.
Or ambivalent Sean (Grinnell Morris), the transplanted Irish personal trainer whom Anna begins seeing after she expands her online dating requirements. Through them, Doran continues to expand “Kin’s” parameters, via sweetly agoraphobic Linda (Rhonda Lord), Sean’s long-ago traumatized mother in Ireland; and emotionally distant Adam (David Hunt Stafford), Anna’s long-ago widowed military father in Texas.
Their multilayered motivations, in tandem with Linda’s brother (John Combs), Adam’s lover (Luise Heath) and Sean’s former squeeze (Alice Cutler), keep “Kin” consistently fascinating. The outcome doesn’t really take us anywhere we haven’t been, yet it certainly feels in sync with the present, and Aaron wields his designers and talented cast with precision.
At times, in fact, too much so, when overly emphasized dialects and excessively deployed beats hinder optimal naturalism. That doesn't negate this formidable play, certain to become a regional fixture.
“Kin,” Theatre 40 in the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S. Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Oct. 27. $24-$26. (310) 364-9535 or Theatre40.org. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times