Renee’s an uptight, perpetually aggrieved suburban mom. Gary’s an overgrown teenager with a penchant for pot. Cassie’s a twentysomething drifter in pajamas. All that these half-siblings have in common is a lot of pent-up hostility—until their absentee father’s unexpected illness forces them to reunite. Melissa Ross’s new play, Thinner Than Water—a LAByrinth Theater Company production, now playing at the Cherry Pit—is an exercise in anger mismanagement. Each snappy, sitcom-y scene is well-written, but as the angry retorts pile up, we’re left wading through a wearying compendium of family frustrations.
Ross leaves no variety of altercation untouched: Her angsty trio engages in passive-aggressive tiffs, heated spats, and devastating blowouts. They fight in stores, living rooms, and hospitals, berating each other for delinquency, incompetence, and bitchiness (you know, things you’ve never heard anyone scream about onstage before). Ross has a way with amusing one-liners, but they don’t come often enough. And despite several cookie-cutter confessional scenes, we never really learn what went so wrong for this terminally troubled clan.
That Elizabeth Canavan, Alfredo Narciso, and Lisa Joyce make Ross’s squabblers watchable testifies to their generous performances and Mimi O’Donnell’s smart direction. Deirdre O’Connell—playing Gwen, the much-maligned patriarch’s latest conquest—is the one character whose plight is truly sympathetic: Like us, she’s stuck listening to somebody else’s family feud.