Too Much Sun

Michael Van Duzer Reviews - Theater

Nicky Silver’s early plays were sharp, acerbic, and hilarious flights of absurdist fantasy though always tinged with underlying darkness and a jolt of real pain. Recently his plays have become more realistic without sacrificing Silver’s rapid-fire wit. With The Lyons, the playwright experimented with abrupt tonal shifts and made it work. Too Much Sun, now having its West Coast premiere at the Odyssey, is a different kind of experiment that is far less successful.

Audrey (Diane Cary) is a semi-famous actress working on a production of Medea in Chicago. She has some kind of breakdown during the final dress rehearsal for the production and walks out. She lands without notice at the Cape Cod summer home of her daughter, Kitty (Autumn Reeser). Over the summer, Audrey’s forceful presence and dedicated narcissism will wreak havoc, not only on her daughter and son-in-law Dennis (Bryan Langlitz) but two neighbors, Winston (Clint Jordan) and his son Lucas (Bailey Edwards). Collateral damage falls on Gil (Joe Gillette), an emissary from Audrey’s agent.

If this sounds somewhat familiar, it is. But that’s only part of the problem. The clash of “theatricals” and normal folks has fueled many wonderful plays. But most of Silver’s characters are paper thin, consisting of one or two characteristics. Kitty binge-eats as she resents the mother who was never around, Winston is wounded and immediately falls under Audrey’s spell, Dennis is frustrated and blocked on his novel, while Gil despises show business and wants to be a rabbi regardless of the fact that he’s not Jewish. The exception is Lucas, the handsome teenage pot-dealer with the soul of a poet. Unfortunately, that poet is Hart Crane.

Silver’s dialog delivers some zingers, but, in this bucolic atmosphere, they seem muted. And every dramatic reversal is telegraphed so clearly that there is no surprise when it occurs.

Talented director Bart DeLorenzo has polished the performances and clarified the action. But he is unable to camouflage the play’s problems. Audiences with a good memory may find themselves thinking of DeLorenzo’s exemplary work a couple of seasons ago in the same theater, on a play with a comparable theatrical background and an amazingly similar set, but a far better script by David Greenspan.

Cary plays Audrey as a woman with her own personal follow spot, which is just right to anchor the show. Bailey’s gentle, knowing Lucas is the heart of the play, while Langlitz makes every moment count as a man who gets in over his head.

Too Much Sun is a disappointing outing from Silver, but the production may offer enough diversion for an entertaining evening.

Odyssey Theatre    March 2 – April 28, 2019