New Leaf’s tight production of Brian Golden’s new play delivers ideal American realism: seamless movement from emotional peak to trough, focus on familial dynamics, and a yearning to understand the past as turnkey to the present. It doesn’t clear any new space for the genre, but an across-the-board attention to detail and a pair of strong actors make for an engaging 90 minutes.
Golden’s script closely follows the prodigal-son roadmap. Toward the end of the public viewing for their mother, who was Nebraska’s only Miss America, expat trumpet player Boxer (Ted Evans) and small-town single mom Jean (Marsha Harman) grapple with the fallout of his abrupt departure years ago while the specter of their aloof mother stalks the room. The actors have a great sense of the emotional rhythm of the play—particularly Harman, who neither glorifies nor moralizes Jean’s working-class concerns, rendering them in a refreshingly genuine manner.
Director Jessica Hutchinson moves the action with a skilled hand, highlighting the big moments while giving the in-betweens a playfulness that Harman and Evans take full advantage of. The interplay between them is never hyperbolic—their earnestness and attention to the landscape of the play make this solid script well worth experiencing.