Texas tribulations

The Offspring of Lorraine

By Daniel Damiano
Directed by Liz Ortiz-Mackes
Mutt Repp
Phil Bosakowski Theatre
354 W. 45th St. (262-7250)
Equity showcase (closes Sept. 13)
Review by Steve Gold

The regrets and frustrations of three ordinary people are at the heart of this worthy new play. Essentially a comedy, the author nonetheless makes clear the underlying sense of desperation shared by these characters, as each faces a future that offers dreariness and little else.

The play is set in a small town in present-day Texas, in a house shared by Lucy and Rita-the offspring mentioned in the title. Rita (Emma Palzere), the somewhat more serious-minded of the two, is a mostly unemployed substitute English teacher. The fun-loving Lucy (Judy Alvarez), an aspiring songwriter, works as a singing topless waitress in a donut shop (actually, not a bad idea for another play). The women are clearly devoted to one another, though this doesn't prevent them from occasionally getting on each other's nerves, their zestful argument over the proper way to cook chicken being but one example.

Lucy tries to borrow Rita's car after having wrecked her own; Rita resists. She in turn tries to coax Lucy into getting a night job so she can be alone with her boyfriend Emmit (Greg Skura). During the course of their bantering, which occupies most of the play's first half, the audience learns of their mother, Lorraine, a depressed woman driven to suicide by their sadistic father.

Rita's relationship with Emmit forms the basis of the play's second half. Soon to be 33, she is impatient for Emmit to leave his supposedly estranged wife and settle down with her. Emmit is a slick-talking gym teacher who at first seems a fountain of confidence. "I don't wish to toot," he says, before proceding to toot. But it becomes gradually clear that Emmit is an empty fountain: a man disappointed in having failed to make it as a professional athlete; a self-absorbed phony who can't remember his son's birthday.

In the end, he admits that his wife is in fact three months pregnant, and a dejected Rita sends him away. The play ends with Rita seeing Lucy off at the airport-she is moving to Los Angeles, where she will try her luck as a songwriter.

Liz Ortiz-Mackes did a fine job of eliciting crackerjack performances from her actors. With impeccable timing and authentic Texas accents, they were wholly believable and a treat to watch.

The living-room set, where most of the action took place, was well-designed by Kyle Barrineau and Shawn Lewis-nothing tacky or caricatured here. The atmospheric lighting was supplied by Annmarie Duggan and Kristina Kloss; and Karen Rowland's costumes were faithful to the characters' economic status. With this well-mounted production, the folks at Mutt Repp do justice to the work of a talented writer.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting 1/Sound: 1

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Copyright 1998 Steve Gold