By Roz Friedman

There's an interesting new play on the boards at the Westport Country Playhouse that is worth your time and effort. Oblivion by Carly Mensch examines disturbing issues of both the teenage and adult years with a sympathetic ear. The writing is intelligent and interesting and covers a multitude of subjects. Maybe too many, but at least it is not a one note work.

The four characters are well-directed by Mark Brokaw on Neil Patel's detailed set lit by Japhy Weidman that looks like a gymnasium, basketball hoop et al. It is actually a home in Brooklyn with long shelves across the back filled with props and dressed by Faye Armon-Toncoso.

In the opening scene, enraged Pam, played with intensity by Johanna Day, and the seemingly more laid back Dixon, the always engaging Reg Rogers, are questioning their teenage daughter and only child, Julie. This stubborn youngster, attractive Katie Broad, a basketball star, was gone for the weekend supposedly attending an interview at Wesleyan University -- mom's alma mater. Julie did not get there and won't say where she was. Pam, who is a Senior Vice President of Public TV, won't abide lying. Dad is a little more restrained; he has had a breakdown and left his high-powered job as a lawyer to write a book exposing his former profession. Mom, who describes herself as a secularist -- she does not believe in religion -- and dad, who is a cultural Jew, are both concerned about what has been going on with Julie and why.

The fourth person in the story is Bernard, a chunky fellow student depicted by Adian Kunze with amazing clarity. Bernard, whose Asian parents want him to go to MIT, is using Julie as his protagonist for a black and white silent movie he is making. He has read Pauline Kael's huge tome on film many times and keeps sending letters to her, not realizing she has died some years before.

Turns out, Julie was at a religious retreat and thinks she wants to be a Christian, which drives her parents crazy-however not so much her dad who thinks she should explore life. While her mom is trying to deal with this shocking news, she discovers that her husband is writing a risque novel. This seems the weakest part of the play, since it probably would make more money than the one he had first intended to pen.

As Oblivion ends, all four characters, struggling to find their way in life, reach some sort of decision, even if it is only half way. Maybe the playwright should write a sequel. At the Westport C Playhouse through September 8th.

This review originally aired on WMNR 88.1 FINE ARTS PUBLIC RADIO STATION


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