“Oblivion,” Westport Country Playhouse

--Irene Backalenick

“Oblivion,” the current show now at the Westport Country Playhouse, is a mixed bag, with deep human issues wrapped up in an all-too-familiar, over-used plot. It is the play itself, not the production, which falters -- which simply does not deliver enough goods. “Oblivion” joins an ever-growing contemporary list of family-issue plays, but adds no new direction to that list.

Yet, to do her justice, playwright Carly Mensch offers lively, believable -- even entertaining -- dialogue, quickly capturing the audience. It is familiar territory -- comfortable, easily recognizable.

Mensch takes on the parent-child relationship embroiled in a clash of beliefs. Parents Pam and Dixon are free-spirited souls, former hippies whose values reflect the revolutionary 1970s. And when daughter Julie turns to a traditional Christian faith, the mother is appalled. Where did she, as parent, go wrong? “The Bible sounds like a Hallmark card,” she summarizes at one point.

Indeed, this is familiar grist for the playwriting mill. We’ve often seen, on stage and off, this particular pattern. Children, in teen-age rebellion, reverse the values of their parents, whatever they might be. Julie has nowhere to go, when she chooses to rebel, but away from secularism and into religion.

Mensch adds further complications between husband and wife -- she is successful in her career, while he struggles and fails as a writer. Added to the mix is Julie’s friend Bernard, an aspiring film-maker, whose confused creative efforts focus on Julie as his star. All four, to do Mensch justice, are sharply-drawn characters.

Moreover, director Mark Brokaw directs briskly, supported by a first-rate cast. In the hands of Brokaw and his talented cast -- Katie Broad, Johanna Day, Aidan Kunze, and Reg Rogers -- “Oblivion” provides an entertaining evening. Characters play off each other with intensity, and the drama comes to life.

But “Oblivion” could have offered so much more -- if the underlying ideas had leaped out of the page -- fresh, original, and provocative.

This also appears on nytheaterscene.com...and a longer version on jewish-theatre.com and national jewish post & opinion.

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