Family drama is on tap for Theatre in the Park’s presentation of the 2015 Off-Broadway play Of Good Stock, written by Melissa Ross and directed by Lynda Clark. The story swirls around three sisters — Jess, Celia, and Amy Stockton — who have come to their family home to celebrate Jess’ birthday, years after their parents have passed away. As the girls arrive, we quickly see that hurt feelings and old resentments simmer just below the surface and affect their relationships.
Jess (Andrea Amthor Twiss) is battling breast cancer. As she drinks healthy shakes and tries to stay strong and busy, we see a vulnerability and fear within her. She is married to Fred (Brook North), a man comfortable in his own skin, who supports and loves Jess. These two have an ease about them that felt honest and real.
The first to arrive at the house is Celia (Elizabeth Anderson), Jess’s foul-mouthed little sister. She is bringing her new boyfriend Hunter (Brian Yandle) to meet the family for the first time, which is a big deal for a commitment-phobe like her.
Next comes the newly engaged bridezilla Amy (Angela Burks), whose saccharine sweetness barely coats her controlling nature, and her self-centered and dominant behavior over her fiancé Josh (Michael Patrick Carney) has her family rolling their eyes and Josh looking for relief.
I think that most in the audience will empathize with the trials of a family reunion and the sting of old wounds; and as we watch, this long-weekend getaway quickly becomes an emotional roller-coaster of angry barbs, dramatic departures, and tearful apologies.
The play excels in the details. As we watch Jess and Fred move through their daily lives — making coffee, cooking bacon, cleaning up, and putting up groceries — they show us a routine that we all have in our own lives. These things are done in real time and give an authentic feel to the household.
Hats off to Nathaniel Conti and Lucas Barrick for creating a terrific set that easily became a casual Cape Cod beach home. The light blues, shiplap walls, and oval window fit the scene perfectly. They were even able to create a screened porch and dock area for the characters to get away from the action and the family dynamic. There were a few issues on Saturday night, June 8th, such as a stuck door; but the actors handled them with aplomb.
The first act of the play was thoroughly enjoyable; however, the second act ran long and started to drag, and included a scene framed as the big climax between the sisters that became an uncomfortable obscenity-laden scream-fest that seemed forced and unnatural. I have a 20 F-bomb limit, apparently. If salty language is not your thing, you have been warned.
Ultimately, the theme of the play was a bit unclear; and I left unsure as to the play’s message. Are we there to cheer the stalwart Jess, in the throes of cancer? Should we focus on the family dynamics? Is it a story regarding the vast consumption of alcohol at family gatherings? The relationship issues all of these women had? Their upbringing? The loss of a parent? I left with a lot of questions. But, perhaps, the play is meant to be a slice-of-life in one very dysfunctional family’s story. You can be the judge.
SECOND OPINION: June 10th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Alan R. Hall: https://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=9463.
Theatre in the Park presents OF GOOD STOCK at 7:30 p.m. June 13-15, 3 p.m. June 16, 7:30 p.m. June 21 and 22, and 3 p.m. June 23 in the Ira David Wood III Pullen Park Theatre, 107 Pullen Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $27 ($22 students, seniors 60+, and active-duty military personnel), except $19 per ticket for groups of 10 or more.
BOX OFFICE: 919-831-6058 or https://theatreinthepark.secure.force.com/ticket/#details_a0S1K00000GVGXlUAP.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-831-6058 or http://theatreinthepark.com/whatson/group-sales.
SHOW: https://www.theatreinthepark.com/whats-on/of-good-stock.html and https://www.facebook.com/events/2066463663407754/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.facebook.com/pg/theatreintheparkraleigh/videos/.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.theatreinthepark.com/, https://www.facebook.com/theatreintheparkraleigh, https://twitter.com/TheatreInPark, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theatre_in_the_Park.
NOTE: All shows are wheelchair/walker accessible, and large-print playbills are usually available.
Of Good Stock (2015 play): http://ofgoodstockplay.com/ (official website), http://www.manhattantheatreclub.com/2014-15-season/of-good-stock/ (Manhattan Theatre Club), https://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=5228 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://iobdb.com/Production/5966 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Of_Good_Stock (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Melissa Ross (New York, NY playwright): https://primarystages.org/espa/instructors/melissa-ross (Primary Stages of New York, NY bio), http://iobdb.com/CreditableEntity/45705 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), and https://www.imdb.com/name/nm2609694/ (Internet Movie Database).
Lynda Clark (Raleigh, NC director): http://www.abouttheartists.com/artists/456047-lynda-clark (AboutTheArtists bio), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0164230/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://www.facebook.com/lynda.clark.92 (Facebook page).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.