There are many reasons for a family reunion--weddings, funerals and, in Edward Allan Baker's "Crying Rocks" at the new Laurelgrove Theatre, shooting your husband.
In the play's double-cast premiere, the cast that performs on Sundays gives fierce portrayals that wring laughter out of tragedy. Jack Heller deftly directs this sensitive drama about the cycle of spousal abuse and its effects on a blue-collar mother and her four daughters.
Heller doesn't make sympathizing with the victim easy. Dolores (Jolene Adams, double-cast with Charlotte Booker) is slack-faced, cheaply overdressed and passive. She arrives unexpectedly at her sister Sandra's (Andrea Tate, with Stephanie Ittleson) home.
Sandra doesn't want her there. After too many similar incidents, no one wants to help her. Not her other sisters--the brusque Mary Ann (Willow Hale, with Kara Pacino) nor the marijuana-smoking Kathy (Danielle Weeks, with Elizabeth Bauman)--who both accidentally stop by.
The mentally fuzzy-minded Kathy drops the first of many bombshells, sending the four women off to find their harridan of a mother, Vera (Christina Hart, with Jacqueline Scott).
Baker developed this piece from his one-act "Dolores," which was published in "The Best Short Plays 88-89" and later adapted into a short film of the same name. He doesn't offer simple solutions, but instead ends with a breaking of emotional barriers--the rock-hard toughness of the mother finally shattering and giving way to tears.
* "Crying Rocks," Laurelgrove Theatre, 12265 Ventura Blvd., Suite 209, Studio City. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 and 7 p.m. Ends April 22. $20. (818) 760-8368. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.