By: Joel Benjamin
An incisively written two-hander about a father and daughter at turning points in their lives.
Christina Masciotti’s two-hander Adult, at the Abrons Center, is incisively written, a relationship changer in the form of a series of conversations between Stanley, a grizzled 56-year old unsuccessful gun dealer and his estranged and confused 18-year old daughter, Tara. Stanley invites Tara to spend her college winter break with him rather than with his ex-wife, her mother, even though he has had a long and somewhat bitter break with Tara. Tara takes advantage of his invitation to avoid a confrontation with her mom, her supporter, about the choices she has made for herself.
As they speak they reveal everyday dreams, the kind of dreams—modest and absurd—that working class people dream. The catch here is that Stanley is older and his dreams are pipe dreams, while Tara’s are gargantuan, with the goal of leaving the world of alienated parents and financial struggle behind. Stanley, a technophobe, is unable to sell his firearms out of a converted room in his home because he is flummoxed by his second hand laptop computer gathering dust—that is until Tara arrives. To avoid the internet he devises a plan to open an indoor firing range behind his house. He has convinced himself that this will be a moneymaker.
Tara, quickly disabuses him of that idea. She also lamely tries to convince herself and her dad that she is has left college because she hates the people, such as her dorm roommate who does nothing but watch TV all day. More importantly she has followed “the love of her life,” a young black man, whose name sounded like Ta-won, to Reading, Pa. where he is staying nearby. This is what she doesn’t want her mother to know.
Adult becomes a verbal tennis match between dad and daughter, both of whom are frustrated and disappointed in their lives. At one point Tara leaves without telling her father leading to a dramatic confrontation that sends each into more hopeful directions: she to a nearby college where she can feel free and still see her boyfriend and he, quite humorously, into the world of web sales. Each decision involves sacrifices that, in the end, bring the father and daughter closer.
Ms. Masciortti has a good ear for dialogue and agilely captures Stanley’s Noo Yawk accent and Tara’s precocious pronouncements. She is helped by an intricately detailed set designed by Stephen Dobay, complete with bullet charts and even a deer head; and down to earth, lived-in costumes by Linda Mancini. Ian Morgan directs.
Jimmie James’ Stanley captures the world weariness of a middle aged man desperately disappointed with the way his life has turned out. His eyes tell all.
Betsy Hogg certainly makes Tara contemporary, totally believable as a confused, independently minded kid on the verge of adulthood, too smart for her own good. She might work at finding some variations in her high-pitched, slightly nasal voice which not only becomes wearying very quickly but distractingly also pegs her at closer to fourteen than eighteen.
Ms. Masciotti clearly has talent and it will be fascinating to see what she comes up with next.
Adult – through February 15, 204
Abrons Arts Center
Henry Street Settlement
466 Grand St. at Pitt St.
New York, NY
Tickets and Information: 212-352-3101 or www.abronsartscenter.org
Running Time: 85 minutes