Theater review by Diane Snyder. Bank Street Theater (see Off Broadway). By Bob Glaudini. Dir. Philip Seymour Hoffman. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 5mins. One intermission.
Labyrinth Theater Company scribe Bob Glaudini had his greatest success hand in hand with Philip Seymour Hoffman. In 2007, Hoffman received accolades as a quirky introvert in the author’s Jack Goes Boating. They’ve paired up again for Glaudini’s latest, the messy domestic-dysfunction drama A Family for All Occasions. Hoffman is on directing duty this time, but neither he nor the estimable Jeffrey DeMunn, as dispirited, retired electrician Howard, can wrest coherence from this choppy hodgepodge.
Notions about embracing ordinary blessings abound, yet never develop beyond the nascent stage. Howard struggles to connect with his unhappy wife (the underused Deirdre O’Connell) and adult offspring: a lump of a computer-nerd son (Charlie Saxton) and a party-gal daughter (Justine Lupe). But when one of her admirers comes a-courtin’, Howard finds a true compatriot in Oz (William Jackson Harper), a former foster kid who shares his love of words, and proves a whiz at acquiring quality computers and appliances.
Like a kid in a dramaturgical toy store, Glaudini plays with every idea he can get his hands on, dropping one as soon as another strikes his fancy: parental impotence, millennial-generation ennui, buried masculine rage, gender-role reversal (Howard is the apron-wearing peacemaker, while his wife barrels off to work, metal lunchbox in hand). Hoffman’s a true actor’s director, drawing out perceptive performances from his able cast—DeMunn, in particular, can make moments of Howard singing to himself and fixing a lamp soar with beauty. But someone should have told Glaudini no when he reached out for yet another theme.—Diane Snyder
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