Tooth and Nail
The New Jersey hamlet of Weehawken is the site of the Hamilton-Burr duel, a fitting locale for a comedy where the characters are goaded to the the brink of murder. The players are a long-married husband and wife (Gregory Mortensen and Melanie Jones) and their three daughters, all adopted as teenagers. The missis is a domestic dervish; he’s sarcastic and near-mute. Gena Acosta’s spry play follows the build-up to and fallout of a dinner party for middle daughter Robin (Kalie Quinones) and stoner fiancé Hamster’s (Aaron Pressburg) baby-to-be, with estranged daughter Dylan (Tara Norris) and bad luck daughter Rose (Catie Doyle) guilted into attendance along with guest stars Michael and Julian (Scott Hartman and Michael Mullen), their new gay neighbors who have presented them with an atrocious polymer artificial bouquet. (”A space bush!” Jones exclaims.) Chaos is the main course of the play, but the meat is dad’s announcement that he’s decided to stop his treatments for brain cancer. This is a play about the value of life fully — and loudly — lived, and as such, Jones spends the second act raging against the dying of the light by channeling King Henry II. Matt Gourley’s direction is a little too hesitant to balance mania and meaning — each actor finds at least one moment to shine, but only Jones navigates the clashing tones: Her blithe chattering is gradually exposed as the desperate optimism of a woman aware she’s held her family together by sheer force of will, and her subjects are rebelling.