A Muddled Mess

You may need a drink after the world premiere of Lans Traverse's Driftwood, but not for fortification. Better for throwing. This show is a mess.

Let's say you take some basic themes from John Steinbeck's Depression-era masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath (struggling Okie farmers on barren land, made more barren by overfarming and by dust storms of Biblical proportions that blow away the precious topsoil) and graft these ideas onto Lillian Hellman's classic Little Foxes (family greed, no-account sons), add a bit from Edna Ferber's oil-soaked Giant, and then, for no good measure, you splice up the time periods into small Post-it note size and shuffle randomly. It's not confusing, nor is it intriguing; it's annoying. Scriptwise, there's no good reason for the randomly bouncing time frame. We get no further insight into why venal son Crowther (Justin Doran in good old-fashioned slimy mode) goes bad like a Great Plains Iago and gobbles up his sisters' inheritance and subsequently drinks himself into a medical malpractice suit. He's a doctor, you see. The boy of the family, obviously the apple of dad's eye (Jim Salners in Papa Walton drag), was sacrificed for over and above the daughters in the family (Carolyn Johnson and Jennifer Dean). He got the advantages of being sent to school. Mom (Karen Ross, looking just like Myrna Loy, but with the obliviousness of Marion Lorne) doesn't understand. She's the only character we're in agreement with.

Trying to keep this jalopy from stalling is fruitless. Everybody tries hard, but only gets more overheated and sweaty the longer the play goes on. The cards are laid out squarely and without imagination right from the first scene where the family dynamics are spelled out in placards the size of a Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloon. Over the course of 20 years, not much changes, not even the characters' clothes. Oh, a few new people enter the scene, like Crowther's equally malicious wife (Bethany McCade, who livens up the piece just by wearing vivid red lipstick) and an auctioneer (Josh Taylor) whose only function is to subtly come on to daughter Evelyn and give her a homemade guitar. This should have significance, or maybe be broken later over Crowther's head, but no, that is not to be. The guitar turns out to be as extraneous as the play.



Main Street Theater, 2540Times Blvd. 713-524-6706.

Through April 25. $26-$36.

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