Two men sitting in a car for more than an hour may not sound like the most scintillating stage picture. But Dan LeFranc’s high-emotion father-son play makes salient use of every bump in the road trip. Like his 2011 family portrait The Big Meal, LeFranc’s 2010 work employs swift and subtle shifts in time. Here, however, they’re not strictly forward-moving.
Divorced dad Ky (Sean Bolger) is in the driver’s seat, having retrieved son Denny (Ethan Dubin) from his soccer match for his weekend custody. The palpable anger and hurt between the two ebbs and flows as fluidly as Denny’s age, as LeFranc reveals this to be not a single car ride but several over the course of Denny’s tween and teen years. As Ky repeatedly inquires after and needles Denny’s mom, and Denny alternately mocks his dad’s taste in music and yearns for his attention, clues add up to form a compelling, broad-canvas picture of this filial dynamic.
Scenic designer Lizzie Bracken’s smartly deconstructed automobile (which also serves as a projection surface for Liviu Pasare’s video design, creating a sense of motion) offers plenty of room for fine acting. Bolger perfectly conveys Ky’s sense of compromised authority and fears of losing his kid. Dubin embodies the conflicted blend of awe and embarrassment a teenage boy feels for his dad; he also pulls off an impressive shape-shifting act, keeping pace with LeFranc’s pliable chronology. The playwright’s occasional interludes suggesting something more cosmic and dangerous in this relationship don’t quite pan out, but the simple human journey here is more than affecting enough.