There are two ways in which Karam’s work steps up to the mark: the dialogue is believable and genuine, splendidly touching in places; the narrative is uncompromising, as families so often are. There are no pat solutions or happy endings here – just a slice of suburban transitional life. This has the result that if the play is to achieve any momentum or purpose, it is the cast which must embellish the material with remarkable, penetrating and utterly believable performances. Happily, the cast with which Mantello animates Karam’s work is, without exception, first rate.
Although there are a lot of genuine laughs, many at the expense of theatre critics (subject matter that keeps on giving), this is not a comedy. It is squid ink dark, intense, uncomfortable theatre. And it belongs to Reed Birney, who is magnificent as Ella’s ghastly, vicious father, David, a huge beast of a role, as great as any of the major father characters in Williams, O’Neill or Albee.