Review - 'Harbor' Hardly Sets Sail

Recognizing when the romance of following your dream needs to be replaced with the reality of getting a job is a difficult concept to embrace for half of the quartet of characters in Chad Beguelin's stumbling family dramedy, Harbor. Unfortunately, there's nothing romantic, or the least bit sympathetic, about the two dreamers that propel the action here and sustaining interest, much less emotional involvement, becomes a chore.

Review - 'Harbor' Hardly Sets SailAspiring nightclub singer Donna (Erin Cummings) has been raising her now 15-year-old daughter Lottie (Alexis Molnar) out of a van, living a handjob-to-mouth existence in between the occasional gig. Beguelin flips the maturity levels between the two, with Donna glibly behaving like a snotty high school "cool kid" ("Don't be a dick," she tells her daughter shortly before referring to her as a "biatch.") while the mature, sensible and humorless Lottie educates herself through voracious reading, counting the days until she's 18 and can legally go off on her own and find some stability.

Supposedly waiting to hear about an upcoming job on a cruise ship sailing out of New York, the pair arrives at the elegant Sag Harbor home of Donna's brother Kevin (Randy Harrison) and his husband Ted. Kevin is an aspiring writer who doesn't seem to display much talent. Not only has he been struggling through his first attempt at a novel for ten years, but he can't even handle a quick job writing copy for a community pamphlet. Ted, a successful architect, agreed when they married that he would support the two of them until Kevin established himself, but with business sagging due to the poor economy, Ted is becoming less enchanted with his cute, well-built ornament who can't pull his financial weight in their relationship.

A conversation segue into the topic of parenthood launches Ted into an overblown rant into the reasons why he never wants children ("Kids ruin your life and I have yet to meet a kid who is not a complete and total buzz kill!"), making the newly-pregnant Donna's plan to unload her baby on him and Kevin a bit more difficult. But by convincing her brother that his future life will be lonely and unfulfilled without children, she still has a shot.

Review - 'Harbor' Hardly Sets SailDespite some questionably believable moments, the story has potential and the cast members do a respectable job in director Mark Lamos' efficient production. (Special kudos to set designer Andrew Jackness for suggesting the idyllic surroundings outside Ted and Kevin's tastefully furnished home.) But Beguelin spends so much time unsuccessfully trying to emulate clever banter that when things get serious he leaves us with little reason to care about what happens to the selfish Kevin, the controlling Ted or especially the hateful, crass and homophobic Donna, whose self-centered lifestyle is damaging her daughter. Donna fancies herself as a wit and the play is saturated with her wisecracks and barbs that are difficult to find funny when coming out of a such a despicable character. (When Ted mentions that he and Kevin enjoy scrapbooking, she shoots back, "Why, sucking dick doesn't make you feel gay enough?")

They only character worthy of any sympathy is Lottie, and Molnar does an excellent job of subtly conveying the sullenly expressed pain of the smartest person in the room who is also the most vulnerable, waiting for the day when she can legally take control of her life. The touching joy she unleashes in a scene where Ted and Kevin throw her a traditional birthday party and she can feel like a real kid for once is matched by heartbreaking work in a scene where a chance to contact her father for the first time doesn't go as she had hoped

Her featured moments are refreshingly real and empathetic in an evening that seems continually stuck in dry dock.

Photos by Carol Rosegg: Top: Alexis Molnar and Erin Cummings; Bottom: Randy Harrison and Paul Anthony Stewart.

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Michael Dale After 20-odd years singing, dancing and acting in dinner theatres, summer stocks and the ever-popular audience participation murder mysteries (try improvising with audiences after they?ve had two hours of open bar), Michael Dale segued his theatrical ambitions into playwriting. The buildings which once housed the 5 Off-Off Broadway plays he penned have all been destroyed or turned into a Starbucks, but his name remains the answer to the trivia question, "Who wrote the official play of Babe Ruth's 100th Birthday?" He served as Artistic Director for The Play's The Thing Theatre Company, helping to bring free live theatre to underserved communities, and dabbled a bit in stage managing and in directing cabaret shows before answering the call (it was an email, actually) to become BroadwayWorld.com's first Chief Theatre Critic. While not attending shows Michael can be seen at Citi Field pleading for the Mets to stop imploding. Likes: Strong book musicals and ambitious new works. Dislikes: Unprepared celebrities making their stage acting debuts by starring on Broadway and weak bullpens.