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The Family Game

(The Bitter Truth Playhouse, North Hollywood: 99 seats; $15 top)

Theatre of Hope & Acorn Prods. present a play in two acts by Georgia Flosi, directed by Cynthia Baer.

Will - Charlie Brill
Maureen - Mitzi McCall
Kate - Joanne McGee
Stan - Gary Lamb
Darcy - Jessica Harrow
Chris - Ryan Cassidy

By Julio Martinez

Playwright/novelist Georgia Flosi has penned an earnest but woefully amateurish glimpse into the dysfunctional life of Kate (Joanne McGee), a woman desperately attempting to overcome the lifelong emotional trauma she has endured from her memories of being sexually abused by her stepfather. Longtime stage and TV vets Charlie Brill and Mitzi McCall (Harry & Frannie Lipschitz on USA's "Silk Stalkings") attempt to instill some energy and veracity into the proceedings but are ultimately defeated by Flosi's turgid text, Cynthia Baer's community theater-level staging and an inadequate supporting cast.

Set primarily in the living room of Kate, husband Stan (Gary Lamb) and pre-teen daughter Darcy (Jessica Harrow), the action centers on Kate's angst-filled attempts to deal with the arrival of her mother Maureen (McCall) and terminally ill stepfather Will (Brill), while attempting to come to terms with growing marital incompatibility with Stan. Overshadowing everything, however, is Kate and Stan's fear that Darcy might be in danger from Will. Complicating matters further is the presence of Kate's born-again Christian missionary brother Chris (Ryan Cassidy), who was also abused as a child by Will but has found emotional sanctuary within his faith.

Flosi attempts to follow too many agendas and never adequately resolves any. Kate is presented as a woman whose childhood trauma led to rampant promiscuity, drug abuse and a nervous breakdown while in college. Now a married real estate agent and an accomplished artist, she is attempting to balance her personal desire for artistic solitude with the heavy demands from hubby Stan to be more involved in his work. Of course, this is the perfect time to finally confront her step dad about his evil ways, inform her deeply mortified mother for the first time about Will, and deal with her daughter who is mad at her for not allowing her beloved granddad Will to stay in the house. Kate tops it all off by contemplating a bit of hanky panky with her aerobics instructor.

All this motivation is simply too much for McGee who adequately churns out Kate's relentless dissatisfactions but doesn't exhibit much inner life or thought process while doing it. Lamb's Stan fares a bit better, especially in his chilling confrontation with Will, but is hampered by the playwright's clumsy dialogue and under-developed characterization. Ryan ("The Facts of Life"), the youngest of the Cassidy brothers, projects deep empathy and solace as brother Chris but has very little to do with the storyline. Young Jessica Harrow never varies from her perky line readings.

Brill and McColl simply perform at another level. Brill is deeply moving as the repentant abuser who desperately wants to make amends before he dies. McColl offers a tour de force portrayal of a deeply loyal mother and wife who is spiritually devastated by her daughter's revelations.

Review As Printed In Daily Variety 2/12/02

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