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The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin

  • Theater, Comedy
  • 3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Theater review by David Cote. The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin. Laura Pels Theatre (see Off Broadway). By Steven Levenson. Directed by Scott Ellis. With David Morse, Christopher Denham. Running time: 1hr 40mins. No intermission.

The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin: plot synopsis

David Morse plays a white-collar criminal trying to reconnect with his family after serving time in prison in the premiere of a drama by Steven Levenson (The Language of Trees). Scott Ellis directs a cast that also includes Christopher Denham and Sarah Goldberg.

The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin: Theater review

The title of Steven Levenson’s new play for the Roundabout is on the vague side, so let me spell it out: The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin is about a father released after five years in jail for financial fraud, and the family members with whom he tries to reconnect. Circumlocution is apt, though: No one in the story is ready to face the crime and its aftermath head on—especially the disgraced patriarch himself.

Levenson relies on mostly two-person scenes: Tom (Morse) and his emotionally scarred son, James (Denham); James and Katie (Sarah Goldberg), a woman in his writing class he starts dating; James and Karen (Lisa Emery), his mother, who

has remarried; and Tom and Chris (Rich Sommer), Tom’s compromised son-in-law. Certainly, the duet is a time-tested dramatic building block, but used too predictably and repetitively (recently, for example, in Reasons to Be Happy and Harper Regan), it feels lazy or tedious. So when Tom, James and Karen are briefly reunited, the electricity in the room is palpable.

That’s also due to the terrific Morse, who builds a compelling portrait of pride, guilt, self-delusion and desperation, along with a hint of physical menace. Strapping and intimidating even when he’s being genial, Morse’s Tom is the engine of the piece. Sadly, there’s not much gas in the vehicle. Levenson’s dialogue is lean, dynamic and flows naturally; for a while, it hides the fact that Tom Durnin is all premise and no motion. The healing—or at least the ripping open of old wounds—takes a mighty long time. Scott Ellis’s clean direction and a strong ensemble serve the material well, but its satisfactions are like the security in Tom Durnin’s erstwhile prison: minimal.—Theater review by David Cote

Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote

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