Mommy and Daddy are having a big fight again. Judy (Julianne Nicholson) comes home tired from the office every day because she’s a corporate lawyer who wants to make senior partner; she feels bad she can’t spend more time with her misbehaving 10-year-old daughter, Jessica. Michael (James Waterston) is a frustrated novelist who fears Jessica is draining his wife’s precious emotional reserves. A parent-teacher conference leaves them shaken—the school is sending a social worker to determine if they’re negligent parents.
The take-home message of Parents’ Evening is moral, imploring us to love and understand those closest to us. A drama consisting entirely of a domestic dispute between two self-absorbed characters can easily turn tedious, and playwright Bathsheba Doran offers little levity or variation. Even in the sure hands of director Jim Simpson, the dialogue never finds a compelling rhythm, leaving Nicholson and Waterston to tread carefully where many dysfunctional stage families have gone before. The big argument ends on a sentimental note, in which the couple expresses all the sympathy and love they’ve refused each other in words. These yuppie parents can suddenly kiss and make up, but for those who had to endure their relentless fighting from the audience, it’s harder to forgive.