Review Roundup: Primary Stages' HARBOR

Primary Stages, in association with Ted Snowdon, launches their 29th season with the New York premiere of Harbor at Primary Stages at 59E59 Theaters. Written by Tony©-nominated Chad Beguelin (Elf, The Wedding Singer) and directed by Tony-nominated director Mark Lamos(Seascape, The Rivals, The Deep Blue Sea), the production features Erin Cummings (Starz's "Spartacus: Blood and Sand", ABC's "Pan Am," CBS' "Made In Jersey"), Randy Harrison (Showtime's "Queer As Folk", Broadway'sWicked), Alexis Molnar (world premiere of Harbor at Westport Playhouse), and Paul Anthony Stewart (Broadway's Fiddler on the Roof, The People in the Picture). Harbor runs through September 8.

When fifteen-year-old Lottie and her ne'er-do-well mother Donna drop in unannounced on the beautiful Sag Harbor home of Donna's brother and his new husband, all hell breaks loose. The bonds between kith and kin are tested in this alternately biting and touching comedy about the constantly shifting nature of the meaning of family. Harbor is from playwright Chad Beguelin, the author/lyricist of Broadway's The Wedding Singer and the lyricist for Elf; andMark Lamos, the director of Primary Stages hits Black Tie, Indian Blood and Buffalo Gal.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: 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.

Joe Dziemianowicz, Daily News: Director Mark Lamos keeps the show moving briskly, and Beguelin throws and lands witty remarks. The nagging issue is that the dialogue seldom sounds like characters talking, but like a writer's words spilling out of their mouths. That's especially true of Donna. When she declares that Lottie is "wicked smart. She's like, Asian smart," the phrase zings. But as someone who until recently "thought the word 'misogynist' meant someone who gives massages," what's her point of reference? Funny but hollow one-liners muddy this "Harbor."

Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: When "Harbor" stops trying to be Noël Coward in the Hamptons, it offers a flawed but interesting look at what it means to make tough decisions. By the end, the show has almost grown up, too.

Steven Suskin, Huffington Post: The play examines parenthood of various varieties, maternal and otherwise. Is the new, modern-day gay family incomplete without children? Beguelin ponders this and other related topics, a viewpoint that makes Harbor different and refreshing. The action gets tied up in the question of whether the Sag Harbor couple should adopt the baby, and I'm afraid that the author gets somewhat tangled along the way.

Jason Clark, Entertainment Weekly: When the play falters, particularly in the contrived and melodramatic wind-up, you wish Beguelin had the Busch's acrid judiciousness. Because far too much of Harbor - forgive the pun - sags. C

Adam Feldman, Time Out NY: Harbor's subject is germane to our moment, when gay people are widely expected to (often literally) buy into the family values against which they were once defined. But despite its ultimately serious concerns, most of the play unfolds at a B-sitcom level, salted with familiar gays-have-fussy-taste jokes and crassly sardonic one-liners. (Donna: "Oh, look. A store that sells saltwater taffy. Welcome to Fag Harbor.") The characters lack dimension, and although the writing is already on the nose, director Mark Lamos sometimes guides his cast right up the nostrils. (Donna, borne back ceaselessly into the trash, is treated especially crudely.) In the second act, when the issues get weightier, the lack of ballast takes its toll. Though it touches a nerve or two, Harbor feels like a waste of timeliness.

Brendan Lemon, Financial Times: Whether to make or adopt children is a perennial topic, and the fact that the discussion in this two-act evening involves a gay couple doesn't especially lend it a fresh spin. What elevates Harbor from brittle sitcom to more unsettling story is the presence of Lottie, the 15-year-old daughter of Donna and a long-ago one-night stand.

Michael D. Jackson, The Examiner: The acting was strange and overly projected. Everyone must have got the projection note to make sure the folks in the back could hear, but within this punched up style of delivery, the cast could not find a natural cadence within the world of the production and there were few moments of subtlety. Many obvious jokes did not land, perhaps because of a self-conscious delivery or the confusion of tone throughout the production. This play has a lot of appeal, but although it had a run at the Westport Country Playhouse before moving to New York, it still feels like it needs to go back into rehearsal with the author.

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