BWW Review: Gregory S. Moss' INDIAN SUMMER, a Genial Coming-of-Age Story
Though Gregory S. Moss calls his genial, if rather standard, coming-of-age play Indian Summer, the story never gets beyond mid-August, suggesting that more attention should be paid to the play's two older characters.
Perhaps, but his focus is centered on Daniel (Owen Campbell), an intellectually precocious but socially awkward 16-year-old spending the summer at his widowed grandfather George's modest beachside Rhode Island home. His mother has left him there while she's "finishing some things up." (That's all we get.)
Played with philosophical warmth by Jonathan Hadary, George is the kind of eccentric codger who'll bend your ear with a not especially funny story about some crazy guy in a café, or wax poetically about unrequited love and the crashing of ocean waves.
Set designer Dane Laffrey has placed 15,000 pounds of sand on the Playwrights Horizons stage, forming the beach where the bored Daniel finds a broken green plastic pail. He no sooner picks it up when a local 17-year-old girl, Izzy (Elise Kibler) warns him to drop it.
The tough-talking Izzy says the pail is the favorite toy of her 6-year-old brother and, assuming Daniel is just another summer vacationer, says she's sick of people like him coming in every year acting like they own the beach and looking down on the year-long residents.
Daniel makes the mistake of insulting her Sicilian heritage and suggesting she comes from a family of mobsters, so Izzy returns with her hunky 27-year-old boyfriend, Jeremy (Joe Tippett). Jeremy seems like a nice enough guy but he has to put on a good show to make his girlfriend happy by roughing up Daniel a little.
But as Daniel gradually gets to know Izzy in the coming weeks, he's surprised and flattered to find out that she's been writing down unfamiliar words he uses and learning their definitions. About to graduate high school, the normal life she sees ahead is to marry Jeremy and raise and family in town, but knowing Daniel has put her in closer touch with a part of her that wants to go someplace else and start over.
Jeremy may love Izzy, but he also feels secure with his life being the big man in his small community, and gets scared of not being able to satisfy her when she starts expressing a want for something more.
There's some lovely writing when Daniel and Izzy start indirectly expressing affection for each other, and a bit of weirdness when George asks the teenage girl to put on one of his deceased wife's dresses and have a conversation with his as if she were her, but director Carolyn Cantor's strong cast is charming and Indian Summer is a sweet bit of romantic nostalgia.