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Oblivion at City Theatre

It's a lovely production manufactured from a slight premise

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Oblivion at City Theatre
  • Photo courtesy of Kristi Jan Hoover
  • From left: Christopher Larkin, Julia Warner, Lisa Velten Smith and Quentin Maré in Oblivion, at City Theatre

You can practically smell the kale chips toasting in the next room. The married couple at the center of Carly Mensch's 2013 play Oblivion (now at City Theatre) so aggressively, if not stereotypically, epitomizes the moneyed urban hip that it's surprising they're not sitting around their Park Slope home eating gluten-free lavash crackers while swilling fair-trade coffee lightened with non-GMO almond milk.

He, Dixon, is a former high-powered attorney who, following a breakdown, sits at home smoking weed and working on a novel he'll never finish. She, Pam, is a high-powered executive at HBO working through a rough parenting patch with their daughter, Julie. Both Dixon (Quentin Maré) and Pam (Lisa Velten Smith) are lapsed Jews, with Pam a bit more militant in her non-belief. The household is shaken somewhat when high schooler Julie (Julia Warner) starts going to a Baptist church with her boyfriend (who — of course! — is filming a grainy, black-and-white silent documentary to get into NYU film school).

Julie's newfound faith upsets the family's equilibrium, and some old scars are picked at slightly until — and this is hardly a spoiler — everyone returns to firmer emotional footing by the end.

Oblivion has a lot going for it; I'm not immune to the charms of smart people saying witty things (because that's something that has almost disappeared from the culture). But I am surprised that Mensch has managed to manufacture two acts out of such a slight problem. My atheism is considerably more militant than Pam's, but, as a father myself, I can say that there are far, far worse things a kid can do than go to a church.

City Theatre offers a lovely Pittsburgh-premiere production of Mensch's work. Smith, Maré, Warner and Christopher Larkin are a wonderful cast, directed with grace and intelligence by Stuart Carden. There's a wonderful moment during one of the dust-ups when Pam, perched on the arm of the sofa, does a slow quarter-turn away from Dixon. It's barely perceptible, but indicative of the understated yet razor-sharp stagecraft on display.

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