BLOOD FROM A STONE by Tommy Nohilly – The New Group – Acorn Theatre – Off Broadway Theater Review

by Cindy Pierre on January 27, 2011

in Theater-New York

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THEY MAKE OTHER DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILIES SEEM DOWNRIGHT SEMI-FUNCTIONAL

The New Group’s Blood From a Stone is an unsatisfying portrait of an already fractured family in Connecticut that continues to crumble over a few days, much like the dilapidated house that they grew up in.  A writin g debut from playwright Tommy Nohilly, this production is rife with conflict and drama from the opening sequences to the end, but never engages or regales one with the origin of all the strife.  Instead, you’re left to speculate and wonder why this family has come undone, and too many open-ended questions ultimately lead to lack of interest.

Set in a cluttered home designed by Derek McLane and dimly-lit by Jason Lyons, the  family consists of Margaret (Ann Dowd), the unhinged matriarch; Bill (Gordon Clapp), her angry lummox of a husband; their son Matt (Thomas Guiry), a married gambler and thief; their pregnant daughter Sarah (Natasha Lyonne), the least dysfunctional of the pack; and their eldest son Travis (Ethan Hawke), the spackle that’s trying to keep the family from caving in but is in desperate need of a patch job himself.  Yvette (Daphne Rubin-Vega), a married mother of two, is the only non-family member, but as Travis’ old sweetheart and current lover, she is as embroiled in the chaos as if she were one of the clan.

Every few moments, something or someone goes awry, and almost all of the characters, with the exception of Sarah, who is a minimal figure in the plot, need a drip bucket.  Little by little, the script reveals just how maladjusted each of the characters are, with a range of addictions egging on the behavior and thought processes.  There are gamblers, liars, pain-killer addicts, and even people strung out on anger.  And to make matters worse, almost everyone is hitting the turmoil pipe. They seem to thrive on the abnormality of it all, but we’re never given a proper background on anyone. Instability is acceptable and perfectly theatrical, but not when the opposite is never introduced.  There are no balances, simply a bunch of boxed checks that would make a shrink shudder.

But that’s not the only thing that’s unsettling.  Structured with an abnormally long first act where the audience is hammered with domestic problems, it would appear that Blood From a Stone has key ingredients that would make it compelling or entertaining, if not well-conceived.  And with the days being counted down by the projection of graffiti-like lettering, the audience knows exactly how compact the difficulties are. Unfortunately, despite the cast’s efforts to pull off the heavy material under Scott Elliott’s competent direction, the show still lacks color and flavor.

cindypierre @ stageandcinema.com

photos by Monique Carboni

Blood From a Stone
scheduled to close February 19 at time of publication
for tickets, visit http://www.thenewgroup.org/

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