by Mike “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant.
Endless Lawns: The Green, Green Grass of Home
In Anthony McKay’s “Endless Lawns” we learn quickly that the mighty have fallen. Twin sisters living in a squalid, dilapidated home on the outskirts of town are far from their former glory as debutante daughters of a famous movie star. Their old home, a mansion in the hoity-toity High Chimney’s neighborhood, has been destroyed, plowed over, and turned into new development. There’s a little more green than gray in this garden, but a sharp observer will note the reference.
Torch (Laurie Klatscher) and her fraternal twin, Flo (Cary Anne Spear), are living paycheck-to-paycheck with menial jobs; Torch at the K-Mart, Flo at a local flower shop. It seems their not-so-dearly departed dad willed the family fortune to his mistress and left his girls out in the cold.
Flo is having a difficult time letting go of her former life. She was once an actor on stage and screen, yet she couldn’t escape her father’s shadow. In these lean years, she’s taken up her dad’s favorite sport; drinking. Torch is having an easier time accepting their new lives, and things are looking less dismal for her. She believes her drinking days are behind her and regularly attends AA meetings, much to her sister’s chagrin.
On a lovely summer evening, Ray (Jason McCune), Torch’s boyfriend and boss, pulls a ring out of his pocket and pops the question. Torch answers him with a resounding yes and shower of kisses.
You can almost feel the sword of Damocles dangling above her head at that brief moment of sheer joy. First, Flo isn’t keen on the idea and pries them apart with acidic bon mots. Then, Graham (Mark D. Staley), Torch’s old flame, alights onto the scene.
Graham “accidentally” (big, giant air quotes) spills a thirty-year old secret in front of Torch’s fiancé, Ray, and all hell breaks loose. While the men are jostling for her affection, Torch slips into the abyss.
“Endless Lawns” has a small but powerful cast. It’s a quartet of charismatic, talented performers.
Spear is mesmerizing as the forlorn Flo. Somehow she maintains her likability after spewing out verbal assaults on all of the other characters. There’s a lovely moment when years of seething resentment falls, quite literally, out of her. She recounts a story about a film festival in her father’s honor. It’s a hilarious. The tale not only knocks her down a peg or two, but offers an illuminating glimpse into the power of forgiveness.
Klatscher’s character is even more likable, but when Torch fails, the failure is epic. You want to jump up on stage and stop her from every bad decision she makes. Her performance is flawless. Though, Torch might have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She utters the line “I’m tired” three or four times through the course of the play.
McCune’s Ray is a lovable schlub. A hapless K-Mart manager with a penchant for a beautiful girl from his youth. His romantic rival, Graham, is a capital D Douchebag, but he’s played with equal parts pomposity and vulnerability by Staley.
The play only stumbles, figuratively and literally, when the characters get drunk. It’s difficult to act inebriated. While director Gregory Lehane gets terrific performances from his actors, the drunken scenes could use a bit more work (short of actually plying them with copious amounts of alcohol, I’m not sure what he could do).
Playwright Anthony McKay’s “Endless Lawns” balances light and darkness like Caravaggio. Just like the Italian painter the light looks brightest against the prevailing darkness; chiaroscuro played out metaphorically.
McKay’s script sparkles with humor. However, he really put the endless in “Endless Lawns.” The play, like the unmown lawn in the story, could use a trim. However, the sisters are the saving grace. McKay creates two intriguing twins. Therein lies a dichotomous problem; the story of the twins is captivating, even though the play seemed a bit long, I still wanted more of them (probably because Klatscher and Spear play them so skillfully).
Even when things seem bleak, McKay shines plenty of sunlight on “Endless Lawns.”
(“Endless Lawns” runs from March 26 through April 12 in The Rep’s Studio Theatre, Pittsburgh Playhouse)