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The two brother are David (Kelly Aucoin, a successful New Yorker, and Billy (Lee Tergesen), his long absent older brother. The play begins in David's Wall Street office where Billy has popped s up unexpectedly.
We see from David's expression that Billy's surprising appearance out of nowhere isn't the least bit welcome. Their last meet-up was at their parents' funeral roughly a decade ago— after Billy had accidentally set fire to the family house when smoking crack. Per the title, the sibling connection is lost, only limited to Billy's asking the rich brother, who he sees as a "soft touch," for money.
No wonder David suspects his brother arrival in New York as being motivated by financial need and even tends not to fully believe the more serious news Billy is unpacking: He's dying of cancer with only months to live and has no friends or partner to fall back upon. David doesn't want to be a sucker —but can he turn a deaf ear on Billy's stinging crie de coeur: "You're all I've got."
That opening set-up shifts the action to the living room of David's posh apartment overlooking Central Park. A large holiday wreath adds a festive touch to the room which has just one occupant. You guessed it—Billy. He's apparently inveigled David to put him up. So we're now asked to wonder whether is the weed he's smoking is medicinal, or are we watching a con man in the guise of the perennial prodigal son?
When Jeremy (Alex Wolff) comes home for the holidays from Brown University and finds his uncle smoking pot, he points out that smoking of any kind is against house rules. But as Billy has clearly managed to get David to to heed his plea for sheter, he now gets Jeremy to actually accept his invitation to share a joint with him.
The family dynamics grow ever more complicated when David and his wife Molly (Annie Parisse) return from a fundraising event for the charity named Safe Haven that Molly founded to help women and children suffering from domestic abuse. That title slyly mirrors the raison d'etre for Billy's presence. But Billy's not only smoking pot in this smoke-free home but getting Jeremy to join him hardly extends to Molly's charitable bent. And it ratchets up David's anger at caving in to Billy's plea for "safe haven."
This is about as much as you need to know, except that this is not a play that mirrors a Norman Rockwell-like Christmas scene. Tempers will continue to flare up, tensions in the marital relationship will build and the story will leap-frog ahead seveb months for a final sobering scene — a scene that, despite its poignancy, come off as more original and surprising.
Despite it's sitcom-ish elements, this story of two brothers with antithetical personalities does showcase some of Margulies' masterly orchestration of such materials, notably in his Pulitzer Prize winning Dinner with Friends. However, Long Lost is not quite on a par with that and his other plays (See links below to those reviewed at Curtainup). That's even with his frequent collaborator, director Daniel Sullivan, again ensuring a briskly staged, handsome production.
Kudos to the entire acting ensemble. Kelly Aucoin portrays the financier David with an urbane air tinged with insecurity. His David might know the ins and outs of Wall Street, but when it comes to dealing with his ne'er-do-well brother, he finds himself waffling on just about everything.
Annie Parisse inhabits Molly with the confidence and poise of Athena. But her Molly is very warm-hearted too. Why else would she give up her lucrative career in corporate law to devote herself to helping victims of domestic abuse?
Alex Wolff is winning as the beloved son Jeremy. He gradually and sensitively reveals the chinks in the armor of the know-all college student he at first appears to be.
Lee Tergesen, in the unenviable role of Billy, is spot-on. He gets to raise, both directly and indirectly, some profound questions in the play: Do our genes determine our destiny?? Is family meant to be there for better and worse?
If the cast is first-rate, so is the creative team. John Lee Beatty has designed a rotating set that ensures seamless transitions from one scene to the next, each superlatively lit by Kenneth Posner. Toni-Leslie James has stitched-up some costumes that range from country-style to the chic. The MIdwestern outfits that Billy wears grounds his character. And the red couture gown that Molly appears in at her first entrance is a holiday masterpiece.
Its shortcomings notwithstanding, Long Lost is never boring, thanks to the fine cast, staging and Margulies's crisp dialogue. Whereas his four characters are not without nuance and have a lot of serious things to say to each other, their messages too often get lost in the telling.
ther Donald Margulies plays reviewed at Curtainupa
Dinner With Friends1999-2000 Pulitzer winner9
Dinner With Friends2014 revival
The Model Apartment2013 Off Broadway
Time Stands Still -Broadway 2013
Shipwrecked, An Entertainment2010 Broadway
Brooklyn Boy2005 Broadway
Sight Unseen 2004 Broadway
Collected Stories 1998
Broken Sleep Berkshires 1997
God of VengeanceF An adaptation
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Long Lost by Donald Margulies
Directed by Daniel Sullivan.
Cast: Kelly AuCoin (David), Annie Parisse(Molly), Lee Tergesen(Billy), Alex Wolff(Jeremy)
Sets by John Lee Beatty
Costumes by Toni-Leslie James
Lighting design by Kenneth Posner
Original music and sound design by Daniel Kluger.
Stage Manager: Amanda Kosac
Running Time: Approximately 100 minutes, no intermission.
Manhattan Theatre Club - Stage I
From 5/14/19; opening 6/04/19;closing 6/30/19. Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan at May 30th press preview
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