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Lost Girls: Theater review by Sandy MacDonald
As in Small Engine Repair, his 2013 debut with MCC Theater, L.A.-based playwright John Pollono here plumbs the underclass of Manchester, New Hampshire, for atmosphere and accents. The former he captures brilliantly; the latter (with no dialect coach credited) is a distracting disaster. You just have to steel your ears as otherwise excellent actors overreach for those elusive, broad As.
Where Small Engine Repair focused on a group of midlife male friends coming to terms with their diminishing prospects, Lost Girls addresses their female counterparts. As the result of serial teen pregnancies, three generations of women share a modest apartment out of financial necessity: Linda (Tasha Lawrence), the corrosively brash materfamilias; hyperresponsible Maggie (Piper Perabo), whose saleswoman paycheck from the local mall barely keeps the electric bills at bay; and high-schooler Erica—who, as the play opens amid a fierce snowstorm, is nowhere to be found. Both she and Maggie’s decrepit old Accord have gone missing overnight. It doesn’t take the two adults long to figure out what’s up.
Panic sets in, prompting a visit from Maggie’s cop ex-husband, Lou (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), accompanied by his preternaturally cheery new wife, Penny (Meghann Fahy). Shiny as she sounds, Penny, notes Linda, is “wicked religious.” Maggie counters, “She's a boring fuckin' retard."
Cut to (or rather, revolve to) a nondescript motel room somewhere in Connecticut, where two teenagers (Lizzy DeClement, Josh Green) have escaped the storm. She’s compulsively provocative, deriding him mercilessly. Good boy to her bad girl, he’s rendered extra-puppyish by love: Ever since second grade, he confesses, “When I look at you, I feel like I'm chewing on electric cables.”
See enough plays and you might start to feel pretty smug about your ability to spot an impending plot twist, but this one is far from flagrant and, in any case, Pollono keeps us so hooked on the vectors of tension between the various characters (Maggie and Lou, in particular, share a scarifyingly tragic history) that the big picture tends to recede—only to resurface resoundingly in the end.—Sandy MacDonald
Lucille Lortel Theatre (Off Broadway). By John Pollono. Directed by Jo Bonney. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.