- Photo courtesy of Jeff Swensen
- Laurie Klatscher (left) and Cary Anne Spear in Endless Lawns, at The REP
Endless Lawns is about the twin daughters of a dead movie star. Since his death, one sister has developed professionally paralyzing alcoholism, while the other is in recovery from same. Neither dry Torch, anchoring the show as played by Laurie Klatscher, nor soaking-wet Flo (Cary Anne Spear) has ever moved past her childhood with a wealthy but cruel father. They live together in a dilapidated house, struggling over whether to pay the gas or electric bill this month. (Ignore that the show's online synopsis focuses on the show's male characters; the sisters are the center.)
The world-premiere show was written by Anthony McKay, a professor of acting at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Drama, and directed by Greg Lehane to take place in Pittsburgh Playhouse's intimate studio space. It uses the close quarters to great effect for tension and movement, and I loved Stephanie Mayer-Staley's scenic design for the back porch.
The title Endless Lawns instantly recalls the scathing indictments of suburban blandness we had in the '90s. These descended from the British "angry young men" plays of the '60s, which in turn followed from ideologically rigorous social realism, and ultimately from Chekhov, who is directly recalled in the show. Compared to the '90s' laughable stories of awful white kids realizing, to their shock, that money and happiness are distinct entities, the (still awfully white) cast of Endless Lawns is older and at least a little wiser. These characters have the self-awareness to acknowledge when the class commentary gets a little on-the-nose.
This, I think, is thanks to the vital decision to make the sole representative of salt-of-the-earth working-class types, Jason McCune's Ray, kind of a goon. They're all goons, particularly Flo, who spends the whole show antagonizing everyone without being given much to redeem her, or to explain why her sister has had decades of patience for her — probably the show's one weak point. Spear gave a remarkable performance, making her character's abrasive personality almost likable.
In some ways, that rough edge worked in this production's favor. Indeed, this was the one show in maybe 10 where I couldn't see the broad strokes of character arcs mapped out from their introductions. I'd forgotten how nice surprises can be.