There is something to be said for the loving relationship between the 16-year-old Anna and her mother Beth–and for the natural way it’s portrayed by Alexa Shae Niziak and DeAnna Lenhart, respectively. Beth often, for instance, straightens out Anna’s long hair, as if caressing it.
An even more shaded performance is offered by Zachary Booth, as the more complicated 28-year-old Eric–with a secret in his past–who has developed an on-line relationship with Anna. Eric also lives 900 miles away but drives all that distance to see Anna on her birthday, virtually meeting her for the first time. As he says to Anna when he shows up unexpectedly: “I’m a serial idiot when it comes to you.” And as he adds a bit later, “Everybody else in my life is shit.”
Much to our surprise, we discover in a subsequent scene that they’ve slept together on what amounted to their first date–at Anna’s home, no less. They’re still in bed, in fact, when Beth returns home with her second-husband-to-be, Tim (Robert Manning, Jr.). As designed with many realistic effects by Edward T. Morris, Anna’s messy bedroom is on a raised platform in the rear of the space, the much neater kitchen and living room are in the front. It’s all been directed with a heightened realism as well by Seth Barrish who, for instance, has Beth cover Anna’s birthday cake with Saran Wrap from a kitchen drawer.
Though Eric manages to sneak out undetected, it’s for reasons that won’t be revealed here that Beth becomes apoplectic when she learns that Eric has slept with her daughter–and it’s not just because he’s so much older than Anna. His real name is also Jamie, as opposed to Eric, which is part of his deceit. Suffice it to say, Beth’s anger is caused by the shocking revelation at the beginning of Act II, which also makes Eric’s telling Anna earlier, “I didn’t set out to find you,” a lie. But that’s also where the play’s contrived conceit makes it incredible. Incredible, too, is Tim’s underreaction when he learns about it.
Manning, Jr., gives what might be deemed a solid if stolid performance as Tim. The apt costumes are by Kristin Isola and Solomon Weisbard is credited with the lighting design.
The Thing with Feathers (through February 10, 2018)
The Barrow Group Theatre Company
The Barrow Group Mainstage Theatre, 312 West 36th Street, 3rd Floor, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-760-2615 or visit http://www.barrowgroup.org
Running time: one hour and 45 minutes with an intermission