Irwin Nayman’s Family Dynamics would make a fabulous sitcom, that I can see being relevant and timely.
We follow as Nancy (Trina Tjersland), a women in her early 70’s, having lost her husband, has moved in during a moment of weakness, with her over controlling daughter Michelle (Rebekah Maderbach), her husband Jason (Aaron K. Zapf) and her two children Kylie (Lauren E. Butler), 16 and Tyler (Wyatt Maloy), 14. Nancy has just woken up to the fact; she sold her beautiful NYC wrap-around apartment with views of Manhattan, for the Long Island suburbs. As Nancy bonds with her grandchildren, her relationship with Michelle is deteriorating. I mean what teenager wouldn’t turn to Grandma when the chips have hit the fan, especially when Grandma is oh so cool and Mom is constantly off volunteering? The lines between everyone become even blurrier, as even Jason can see just how helpful Nancy can be. The questions become, will Michelle ever see her mother as a viable person and will Nancy get to reestablish her own life, which means leaving to travel to Africa? By the end, everything is neatly tied up, but I seriously could have seen more episodes than the ones that were clearly outlined in each scene.
Trina Tjersland was fabulous as Nancy and it is sad that in a sitcom, this role will go to a well-established actress. I can see Trina picking up a best actress award or at least a nomination at this festival. Lauren Butler was the perfect 16 year-old, with her overwhelming amount of near misses. Though Wyatt Maloy had little on his plate, he made Tyler memorable. We felt sorry for Aaron K. Zapf’s Jason and saw the layers of a man truly trying. The only performance, I saw as needing a little work was Rebekah Maderbach, as Michelle, who just seemed a little to whiney.
What hurt this show in the festival was the direction by Justin Gallagher. In the scene work he did a really nice job, but in designing the set he failed. Each scene change took about 10 to 15 minutes, when the stage could easily have had the other two scenes in place. Kitchen front and center, bathroom stage right, bedroom stage left. Because the scene changes took so long, the audience was taken out of the moment and the momentum was lost.
Mr. Nayman is a really talented writer who understands the humor of life. His conversations feel honest and he manages to highlight the moments of everyday living. I found myself engaged in his work and wanting to see and know more.
Bravo, this is one of the better plays I have seen this year.
Family Dynamics, Hudson Guild Theater, 441 West 26th St., closed.