Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
At first, the play seems like a standard story of a family growing apart. Teresa Lynch (Dearbhla Molloy) has seen her three adult children become estranged from her and each other, but she is determined to rebuild the bonds that once connected them. Most of all, she needs the idea of family.
Daughter Niamh (Emily Landham) works in publishing and never seems to relax; Fin White (Avery Clark), a co-worker and friend, cares for her and doesn't understand why she pushes him away. Niamh's sister Ciara (Caroline Bootle Pendergast) has an easygoing husband (Ciaran Byrne) and offstage children. The sisters both look after Teresa.
Then there's brother Nial (Peter Albrink), who seems to have put his life back together after 17 years in prison. Now he's an artist, well regarded for his grim images drawn from his incarceration, but he's no happier about returning to his family; he's doing it at the request of his girlfriend Ruth (Hannah Yelland). The fact that she's English instead of Irish, and that the sisters see her as too-too perfect, doesn't help matters.
Both Molloy and Yelland have been nominated for Tony Awards, but Landham gives the most gripping performance. She makes the audience understand that Niamh is so tightly wound because she fears falling apart completely if she lets her guard down.
One interesting thing about Kinahan's writing, and Ethan McSweeny's quietly haunting direction, is that the emotional outbursts are not the most involving parts of the play. The characters occupy the same space but often seem oblivious to each other; they may talk over each other, or sit silently as others have conversations that pointedly don't involve them.
McSweeny has staged this insular drama in Studio's smallest traditional space, the Milton Theatre, drawing the audience into the sense of suffocation that engulfs the family and gradually includes the people around them. Debra Booth's scenic design concentrates the focus on the living-dining area; actors who exit "down the hall" or "up the stairs" become vague shapes behind a translucent screen.