The Setup: A two-actor play challenges the performers to hold the audience's interest, without an eccentric uncle suddenly entering to spice things up. Sonia and Suzy, a new work by Nancy Geyer, takes on this challenge, as Suzy, an adopted daughter in her early 20s, meets her birth mother Sonia for the first time.
The Execution: Such a situation suggests awkwardness, misunderstandings, anger, recriminations and guilt, and these are played out in seven vignettes as the pair meets intermittently, months or years apart. This leads necessarily to exposition, and we are told about the changes in Suzy's young life (a lot happens), rather than experiencing them with her. We learn less about Sonia, a stage actress, except that she is wealthy and hasn't made it in Hollywood. The two never really get to know one another - in each meeting, they greet each other almost as strangers. The play thus has narrative, but no arc.
While the situation is potentially interesting, there are subsidiary issues that are less so. Medical issues arise as often as on a House TV marathon, and we learn more than we care to know about Suzy's adoptive parents. These medical events seem perilously close to "filler" material. Suzy is played by Jennifer Bassett Dean, who brings energy and skill to the part. In Act One, however, her hair styling covers most of her face -- it's like watching her through Venetian blinds. Josephine John plays the birth mother, and she's attractive enough to make us believe she could be a leading lady. But she remains with no inner passion throughout the play; in fact, she's close to stilted, as though connecting to her lines rather than to her daughter. Director Claire Hart-Palumbo keeps events proceeding smoothly, and minor set changes are handled adroitly. The set, by John Stevens, works wonders to delineate separate playing areas, and the lighting, by Sallye Johnson, illuminates them beautifully.
(Through January 29. Country Playhouse Black Box, 12802 Queensbury, 713-467-4497.)
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