The show: The world premiere of Lucy Boyle's "The Blue Deep" at Nikos Stage at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown, Mass.
First impressions: The return of
What is it? A family drama centering on a 65-year-old, health-obsessed mother Grace (Danner), a gallery owner, and her unfocused, adult daughter Lila (Heather Lind), who returns to the family's Sag Harbor home with her belongings in plastic bags after she flees from her dead-end job and boyfriend. She gets little sympathy and no nurturing from cool Grace.
What family doesn't have its ups and downs?: Obvious to everyone but them, both disapproving types are having difficulty with unresolved issues following death of the husband-father who is seen as the heart of the family — but whom we know relatively little.
Sounds like a decent enough premise: It is if the characters had focus, if the writing wasn't so thick with symbolism, metaphor and dreams, if the dialogue was more knowing, if, if, if...
High-energy, ever-on-the-go Grace is living in desperate denial, avoiding all talk about her husband and his death. She instead battles age and mortality with a fierce regimen on diet and fanatical exercise.
Taking aerobics to absurd lengths, she does "pool-ates" class, which is like palates but done in a swimming pool. This forces the actress to wear a black exercise leotard — Ms. Danner looks smashing, by the way — and then, in a harness, is hoisted straight up above the stage by a cable while she flips her feet and strokes her arms as if swimming in place. It's quite a logistical effort — for a minimal effect.
Lila has unresolved issues of identity and purpose and is a state of sadness, confusion and disconnect. Meanwhile, Dad's ashes are in the ceramic cookie jar on the mantle, destined for...
Wait, don't tell me: I won't have to.
But everyone grieves differently: That's for sure but this family the state of grief is positively bi-polar. Declarations of leave-my-home are followed in the next scene with status quo as if nothing significant had just happened.
So it's a two-person show...?: No. But it could have been.
Jamie (Finn Wittrock), a hunky local gardener home for the summer from school — he is studying forestry at Yale — arrives to clean up yard debris after a storm and falls for the daughter though she is dreary and annoying and clearly not encouraging this man who is either an eco-bore or just dim. He keeps returning.
There are also two old friends of the family, Charlie and Roberta (Jack Gilpin and Becky Ann Baker, giving the proceedings a nice light touch) who are guests for the weekend at the home at the same time as the daughter's "unexpected and uninvited" arrival. They are there to soften the mother-daughter tensions.
But the sniping continues anyway in this chilly atmosphere of privilege and judgement. The mood swings, which may be true to experience, ring false on stage in this story: A big clash, followed by an uneasy truce, then another showdown, then some silliness, then something terrible happens, then some physical comedy involving Superglue or getting drunk or smoking pot, then a cathartic cry from the heart — and the lower back, then a breakdown and a breakthrough, and finally the two pick up the pieces of their relationship and move on, but bonded. But not before Grace ascends in swim gear one more time.
Twitter review in 140 characters or less: Drifting along in the shallow end of the Hampton pool.
Thoughts on leaving the parking lot: "The Cherry Orchard." A new play by A. R. Gurney. "The Royal Family." "Long Day's Journey Into Night." Fantasy casting time for might-have-beens.
The basics: The production continues through July 8. Running time is two hours and 15 minutes, including one intermission. Information can be had at http://www.wtfestival.org amd 413-597-3400.