Curtain Call Theatre’s “Long Lost” – Can you find your way home?

Life is messy.  Things are rarely tied up with a neat little bow at the end of a relationship or the end of life. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Donald Margulies presents us with 90-plus minutes of messy, heartfelt, disturbing, and unsettling in his play Long Lost, now on stage at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham. 

Maryhelen Lounello, David Nathanielsz, and Ryan Fuchs (photo credit: Curtain Call Theatre)

Billy shows up back in the life of his younger brother (successful New York City consultant David), his wife (attorney-turned-philanthropist Molly), and their college student son Jeremy.  Billy has a troubled history of drug and alcohol abuse, a stint in prison, and what is apparently a pathological history of lying and emotional abuse towards his brother. David and Molly are outwardly the quintessential all-American success story, living in a multi-million dollar co-op in Manhattan while their son attends Brown University.

Curtain Call Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director Carol Max has perfectly cast the physical incarnations of the characters. Kris Anderson is Billy; the unkempt, scruffy brother that’s come home to try and reinstate himself into his bother’s life. David Nathanielsz, Maryhelen Lounello, and Ryan Fuchs inhabit the roles of David, Molly, and Jeremy so well, that they may have stepped off a page of Town And Country magazine.

Yet all is not as it appears.  In no short order, the cracks in the facade of their lives begin to grow larger. Long Lost is a play about a search for redemption, and about second, third, or fourth chances to make things right. But when is it too little too late? At what point in time do you say enough is enough, we just need to cut losses and move on?  Margulies asks this repeatedly of his characters; from the naivety of youth, who only see part of the story, to the elders’ experiences of burned pasts. At what point is heart not enough, forcing us to think only with sense memory and a past that bubbles up early on in the redemption process. 

Max’s direction allows her cast to live and breathe on the stage. She gives them the time to build to crescendos of hate, disdain, and fear, and then to relax and allow the audience a break of humor that is apparently not seen by the characters. She has directed this production with the deft hand of someone who can relate to the characters.  On some level, who amongst us has not dealt with familial dysfunction and trauma that comes with the messier part of life and families.

Curtain Call stalwart Kris Anderson is remarkable in portraying the roller-coaster journey of Billy. He immediately grabs the audience’s attention, almost never leaving the stage.  He is both the puppet seeking redemption and at the same time the puppet master steering the lives of the rest of the cast.

David Nathanielsz commands the stage, showing us more of the emotional side of the family as he battles Billy for the opportunity to maintain his ordered life.  Seeing his brother at first as only an unwelcome distraction to the life he has created, before ultimately verbalizing to Billy his sense of betrayal from those who were supposed to support and protect him.  He stands up to Billy face to face, only to recoil one more time, perhaps for the last time. We look forward to seeing him back on the stage sooner than this past 20-year absence.

Kris Anderson, David Nathanielsz (photo credit: Curtain Call Theatre)

Maryhelen Lounello is the ironic wife.  She has left her partnership in her law practice to establish a nonprofit for homeless and battered women called Safe Harbor. Is the safe harbor she has created truly for others, or from her own life that she seeks? Lounello, another Curtain Call vet, is a joy to watch on the boards, measuring her emotions and feelings until they can no longer be contained. 

Ryan Fuchs is the only Curtain Call newbie and he plays beautifully with the cast around him. We watch his character experience the most growth. The innocence of youth gives way to the harsh reality of adult life. Fuchs more than holds his own with the cast. 

The only flaw in the play, if there is one, is its ending. It just stops. There is no neat bow around the story, no ”they all lived happily ever after”.  Which is fine – that is life. But what Margulies has neglected to do is provide a punctuation point with which to leave the audience. What he does do, is give them a great deal to ruminate over, discuss and reflect upon. At what point are family and love not enough? An interesting question for all of us, particularly in these troubled times. 

The performances more than make up for this flaw. It is exciting to see “community theater” present a solid cast so well directed and executed. An interesting aside, two of the four performers came on board with only two weeks of rehearsal. I will leave it to you to figure out which two – another kudos to both cast and director for making the transition seamless. Long Lost should be found by all theater-going audiences.

“Long Lost” runs Thursday through Sunday through May 15. For more information: curtaincalltheatre.com or call 518-877-7529.

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