Theres much to admire about Lindsey Ferrentinos new play Amy and the Orphans and just as many nagging issues.
Pluses include its big heart and fine-tuned ensemble directed by Scott Ellis for the Roundabout.
The cast features Jamie Brewer, an actress with Down syndrome known for American Horror Story, who makes an assured Off-Broadway debut.
A death in the family Dad, a widower who was in his 80s sets the story in motion. Maggie (Tony winner Debra Monk) and her uptight brother Jake (Mark Blum) return to New York to tell their younger sister Amy (Brewer), who has Downs and has lived in state homes for years.
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Making the strained reunion more uncomfortable is Amys devoted tagalong caretaker Kathy (Vanessa Aspillaga, whose character deserves her own play), whos no-b.s. attitude makes the elder sibs face an unsettling fact.
Scenes with the sibs alternate with ones between Sarah (Diane Davis) and Bobby (Josh McDermitt, who plays Eugene on The Walking Dead), spouses in their 30s working on their rocky marriage.
How they fit in takes time to understand, and making us wait is a smart move by Ferrentino (Ugly Lies the Bone). The play, inspired by her family history and informed by meeting with Brewer, is about disconnection from others, from ourselves, from the truth.
On the surface, the play is jammed with laughs and comic relief. But ugly truths lurk underneath. But not all of the jokes or dramatic revelations convince. That includes Maggies tale of her breast cancer-scare and Skittles. Funny? Maybe. Believable? Not really.
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The same goes for Amys siblings cluelessness about her childhood experience. Its not just that the story stretches credulity, its that a scene in which Maggie and Jake confront the truth never happens and feels missing in action.
Talk about disconnection.
Through April 22 at the Laura Pels Theatre