By Kim Jackson
Masterful performances by talented actors can save a play that wants so desperately to rise above Hallmark movie tropes.
Of Good Stock, by Melissa Ross, is a dysfunctional family (sans parents) drama set in a charming Cape Cod home with an ocean view. Yes, the expected sibling clashes ensue along with moments of hilarity to prevent the tears. Old rivalries elicit sympathy. And a battle with cancer heightens the drama. Of course, in the end, everybody finds strength in the same family that drives them crazy. It’s a family beach get-away weekend that warrants the need of a few more days of vacation.
Lynda Clark carefully and thoughtfully directs the Theatre in the Park production of the 2015 Off-Broadway play about the reunion of the three Stockton sisters at the summer cottage once frequented by their famous, now deceased, philandering father.
Andrea Amthor Twiss offers an astoundingly composed performance as Jess, the eldest sister who is stoically battling breast cancer. Brook North is absolutely charming as Fred, Jess’ attentive, saintly and unflappable husband. Together, they establish a marital connection and familiarity that is palatable, even as it is being tested by her battle with cancer.
Once the other two sisters arrive on the scene, the focus shifts to sibling interaction. The trio revert to the teasing and goading that underscore their shared history. Celia, the youngest, wields a biting sarcastic wit that humorously skewers everyone while keeping a safe distance. Elizabeth Anderson captures the insecurities and the bravado of a sibling that always feels judged and not up to par.
As the middle daughter, Amy must fight to be noticed even as she is the most self-absorbed of the three. Angela Burks offers an engaging portrayal of a woman who quickly shifts from bubbly to whiny amidst losing control. She has an uneasy relationship with both of her sisters, and her upcoming destination wedding becomes a target for many of their barbed comments.
While the relationships between the sisters are front and center, the men in their lives also have their moments. As Amy’s fiance Josh, Michael Patrick Carney’s face fully expresses the dawning realization of what life will be like after marrying a Stockton sister. And though Fred may be the most grounded, Celia’s new boyfriend, Hunter, proves to have far more depth than it appears initially. Brian Yandle deftly navigates the thin line between caricature of a Montana man who dotes on Celia and the clear insights born out of his experience coming from a family of twelve. His deadpan, insightful honest comments are some of the funniest moments of the show.
This long play explores the minutiae of daily interactions, the layers that build below the surface until a force causes an eruption. And when it explodes, the f-bombs flow freer than that of an episode of The Sopranos. Once the air has cleared, the sisters seem poised to move on, separately, but with redefined connections to each other. That may be what Ross is aiming for: the need to break free of what confines a relationship and to find what binds it together.
Of Good Stock runs through June 23rd. For more information visit: https://www.theatreinthepark.com/. In addition, for this production Theatre in the Park is partnering with the Pretty in Pink Foundation to support the care and treatment of breast cancer patients.