Lee Tergesen and Kelly AuCoin photos
by Joam Marcus
By Ron Cohen
we came from the same womb, I’m supposed to be responsible for you forever and
ever no matter what kind of shit you do?”
David, a well-heeled Wall Street consultant, asks his wastrel brother Billy in
Donald Margulies’s play, Long Lost, being given its New York premiere in
a solid, if not galvanizing, Off-Broadway production by the prestigious Manhattan
Theatre Club. And David’s question pretty much embodies the gist of Margulies’
writing here, an exploration of the inescapability of family connection.
who won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2000 for his off-Broadway hit Dinner
with Friends and was a finalist for his Sight Unseen and Collected
Stories, has a knack for creating recognizable characters you can empathize
with, caught up in tense situations. And that talent is well evident in Long
Lost. The smartness of the writing and the well-shaped dramaturgy are
tempered, however, by a certain predictability in this family drama.
Tergesen), addicted to drugs and wild behavior which he blames on a “chemical imbalance,”
has after years of absence reemerged into the life of David and his family, a
seemingly perfect picture of well-meaning New York affluence. David’s wife,
Molly (Annie Parisse), has given up a successful law practice to run a shelter
for abused wives and their children. Their son, Jeremy (Alex Wolff), is a
loving kid attending Brown University.
LeeTergesen and Alex Wolf
from lunch, David finds Billy lounging on his office couch. It’s not a happy
reunion. When they were boys, Billy, the elder, terrorized David, punching him
in the face while he slept, pummeling him in the back of the car while the
family rode to church.
David, as he
tells us, rose from his farm-upbringing by dint of his hard work and smarts.
But life held a darker path for Billy, whose misadventures were climaxed by a
family tragedy. When a crack-smoking Billy passed out, the flames led to a
conflagration that burned down the family home, killing the brothers’ mother and
father and resulting in jail time for Billy.
tells David he’s dying of cancer, and a reluctant David agrees to take him home,
at least for the time being.
LeeTergesen,Kelly AuCoin, Alex Wolff and Annie Pariss
ensconced in the family apartment (overlooking Central Park, of course),
Billy’s presence, as you might expect, is the catalyst which forces out into
the open a double whammy of disastrous secrets.
touches on a number of subjects, with varying degrees of heft. There’s the
matter of parents’ responsibility for their children’s sex lives, as Molly
discusses Jeremy’s relations with his college girlfriend. The motivations of
the charity efforts of the well-heeled are also questioned, as illustrated by
Molly’s fund-raising. Then, there’s the collateral damage of infidelity and
finally, the nature of death, as Billy looks toward his demise.
it’s the tenacity of family ties that informs the play, and it ends with a
depiction of that bonding across generations, tenuous as it may be, between
Jeremy, now caught up in an upset of his home life, and a supportive Billy.
Sullivan’s well-measured direction, Margulies’ story unwinds with precision,
and the four actors give solid, convincing performances.
self-assured Wall Street veneer, Aucoin lets us see the tormented kid David once
was, and Tergesen as Billy nicely leavens smarminess with a roguish charm.
Parisse’s Molly projects an inherent intelligence along with womanliness, while
Wolff’s Jeremy has a youthful freshness.
some gripping moments, and it should be noted that when one of the long-kept
secrets was crudely revealed at the performance reviewed, it elicited audible
gasps from the audience. For the most part, though, there is something like a
mood of reserve in the proceedings, so as to perhaps not overemphasize the
familiar template of plot: prodigal returns causing havoc. It keeps Long
Lost from really hitting you in the gut.
though, a Margulies play is always to be welcomed. This is intelligent material
well produced, with all the well-hewn physical trappings you expect of MTC in
John Lee Beatty’s set designs, particularly eye-filling in depicting the
tastefulness of David’s luxurious apartment, and in the character-defining
costumes of Toni-Leslie James.
Long Lost may not totally absorb you in its
storytelling, but it won’t lose your attention either.
Manhattan Theatre Club, NY City Center Stage 1
131 West 55th
212 581 1212