“Some problem with the nuclear thing again …” Such is the breezy way locals in a remote New Mexico community shrug off a declared state of emergency following a nearby uranium mine accident in “Angels Fall,” Lanford Wilson’s 1982 drama at the Lex Theatre.
Less nonchalant about the resulting highway closures — not to mention the potential radiation hazards — are two pairs of motorists forced to seek refuge from the heat in a humble adobe mission.
This pretext for assembling a diverse cross-section of characters is admittedly a bit labored and melodramatic; in his better-constructed plays, the late Wilson achieved the same end within more naturalistic setups. Nevertheless, the playwright’s signature generosity of spirit — his exploration of human fallibility with insight and empathy rather than judgment — is fully illuminated in a revival from the Production Company that advantageously applies its staging resources.
Director Alex Egan is particularly adept with the precision timing required for the play’s abrupt shifts of tone. A precisely-timed silence following some humorous banter suffices to convey dawning uncertainty and helplessness as the six characters grapple with internal and external stresses.
A solid cast clearly delineates these carefully-drawn personalities, each facing a crisis of faith, whether spiritual or secular, in the assumptions that have given their lives meaning. In standout performances, Stewart Skelton and Gabe Fonseca dig deepest into their respective roles as a disillusioned Ivy League professor and a conflicted half-Indian doctor tempted to abandon his disadvantaged community for a prestigious research position.
A more evenly-matched ensemble would have better served the play’s scope, but Wilson’s message is no less eloquent: even when angels fall, redemption is still possible.
“Angels Fall,” The Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Dec. 22. $25. (800) 838-3006 or www.theprodco.com. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.