It makes sense that Deanna Jent’s semiautobiographical play started out as an essay. The dysfunctional-family drama, which centers on the mother of a severely autistic 18-year-old, has an oddly detached quality—kind of like a matriarch who routinely dulls her problems with wine. At first, Tami (Julia Murney, consistently strong) and Bill (Daniel Pearce) seem to have everything under control with the hulking Josh (Daniel Everidge, nicely underplaying the illness), who giggles like a two-year-old when he plays with feathers or watches Curious George DVDs. Unfortunately, he also has tantrums like a toddler, and at 200-plus pounds, he can do a lot of damage, both physically and emotionally.
A visit from Granny (Celia Howard) sets the action in motion, although there really isn’t much of it. Despite a number of fight scenes, heated arguments and flashes of gallows humor, Falling seems more like stalling. It’s all very heartfelt and very sad, but rarely engaging and—save its unsentimental characterization of a seriously special-needs individual—quite generic. Granny’s a Bible-thumper, Dad’s a peacemaker, Mom’s a mess under her Type A exterior, and there’s even a sarcastic, eye-rolling teen sister (Jacey Powers). Most troubling of all, there’s nothing inherently theatrical about Falling, which would probably play better on Lifetime than it does live. Or maybe Jent should go back and try finishing that essay after all.—Raven Snook