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Theater review by Diane Snyder
Few playwrights depict domestic tension with the subtlety and insight of Donald Margulies. In Long Lost, two very different middle-aged brothers reunite for the first time in 10 years, still feeling the aftershocks of a devastating loss. In a quietly explosive 90 minutes, the play explores the difficulty of letting go of the past, and how seemingly small cracks in relationships can lead to foundation-shattering destruction.
Shortly before Christmas, recovering addict and ex-convict Billy (Lee Tergesen), in need of a place to stay, drops in on his brother, David (Kelly AuCoin), who left the family farm years earlier and found success as a financial consultant in New York City. When nostalgia isn’t enough to secure an invitation for the holidays, Billy announces that he’s dying of cancer. David’s no-nonsense wife, Molly (Annie Parisse), suspects that he’s lying, and Billy’s behavior—passing out drunk, smoking pot with the couple’s 19-year-old son, Jeremy (Alex Wolff)—doesn’t do much to win her over. But Billy, whom David describes as “a chaos machine,” seems determined to destroy what’s left of his family when he doesn’t get his way.
Daniel Sullivan, who also helmed Margulies’s Sight Unseen and Dinner with Friends, has assembled a superb cast. Parisse excels as the tightly wound Molly, Tergesen shifts from charming rascal to cruel ne’er-do-well with ease, and Wolff is endearing as a young man deeply affected by the secrets of his elders. But the standout performance comes from AuCoin, who is riveting as he tries to keep a lid on the range of emotions his brother brings out in him: rage, resentment, love, guilt and more. Although David has no desire to be his brother’s keeper, letting him go won’t be painless.
Manhattan Theatre Club (Off Broadway). By Donald Margulies. Directed by Daniel Sullivan. With Kelly AuCoin, Lee Tergesen, Annie Parisse, Alex Wolff. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.