17 Orchard Point
The literal kitchen sink in the meticulously detailed set onstage at the Beckett Theatre is an important location in this “kitchen sink” drama. I won’t reveal what takes place there, since this 75-minute play rests on its twists, turns, and revelations, but I will reveal that there were audible gasps from the audience, not just in this moment, but in a few other places as well.
Lydia (Tony Award-winner Michele Pawk) arrives from Las Vegas at the apartment building she owns in Cleveland (the 17 Orchard Point of the title). She’s there for her youngest daughter’s baby shower, hosted by older daughter Vera (Stephanie DiMaggio). Vera has been living in the family apartment and manages the building. Mom left for a long weekend in Las Vegas after the death of her husband years ago and never returned; neither daughter has seen her since she behaved badly three years before at the younger daughter’s wedding.
The apartment holds memories Lydia can’t bear, but it provides Vera comfort and security. Thirty-year-old virgin Vera contrasts sharply with her animal-print-wearing Vegas mom, who is uncomfortable with the religious iconography and prayers that have become part of Vera’s life. Their differences become more apparent as the evening progresses. Lydia has news; Vera has questions, and each struggles to connect, deflect, and move on.
I had a mixed response to this play, and part of my confusion is that there isn’t anything actually “wrong” with it: two solid performances, a good mix of humor and pathos, genuinely funny lines, twists that actually surprised. All good things. Both women embody their roles wholeheartedly. Michele Pawk is especially interesting to watch as she shifts from laughing at her own jokes, to hostility, regret, and good-natured teasing all within a few lines. Stephanie DiMaggio, who co-wrote the play, is also well-grounded in her less-flashy role.
Yet I felt let down by it. There was a feeling of being rushed, both by the playwrights and by the director, so there were moments that felt unearned, created both by holes in the text and by the pace of the actors. When Lydia does a makeover on the reluctant Vera, it seems to come out of nowhere, rather than as either a mother-daughter ritual, providing us with a sense of their history (which the set does so beautifully) or as an action with an agenda, coming out of what just preceded. And many times lines didn’t have an opportunity to land before the actors continued, as if they’d been told to keep up the pace. I also found the ending a bit bewildering: I wasn’t sure how the audience was meant to view the final actions. This is a writing issue more than anything else.
As I left the theater I found myself wondering about the place for plays like this, now that we’re inundated by soaps and reality shows filled with family revelations coming fast and furious. It’s not a bad thing for a play to set me to thinking, but I wish I had come up with more of a conclusion.
17 Orchard Point – By Anton Dudley and Stephanie DiMaggio; directed by Stella Powell-Jones
WITH: Michele Pawk and Stephanie DiMaggio
Designed by John McDermott; lighting by Daisy Long; sound by Elisheba Ittoop; costumes by Tilly Grimes; producer, Justin Scribner, associate producer, Matthew DiCarlo; Richard Darbourne; stage manager, Laura Kathryne Gomez. At The Beckett Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street, Manhattan; Tickets available at the Theatre Row Box Office (410 West 42nd Street), or through Telecharge: 212.239.6200, www.telecharge.com Through May 25. Running time: 75 minutes.