Most family plays confine themselves to a single household. But Kin, a new drama by Bathsheba Doran at Playwrights Horizons, toggles between countries and between previous and present versions of a lovably troubled clan. The story centers on Anna (Kristen Bush), a Columbia poetry scholar, and her new boyfriend, Sean (Patch Darragh), a personal trainer from Donegal, and shows how, over time, their family and friends settle into a network of mutual emotional dependence. (Laura Heisler steals the show as Helena, Anna’s maniacally insecure confidante.)
Director Sam Gold provides a sterling cast and meticulous production, managed with a light hand until the finale’s overstated visual metaphor. But despite its emotional intelligence and considerable wit, Doran’s writing falls prey to commercial formulaic instincts. The playwright shows a keen eye for structure and ear for contemporary speech, but on the other hand gives us uniformly confession-driven characters who talk at length about their inner needs—as people do only in Anglo-American dramas. Each one discovers and then neatly works through a psychological dilemma on schedule, journeying (of course) toward triumph or self-acceptance. The solid performances and tight staging make Kin engaging, but ultimately this slick, humorous script seems surprisingly content to serve as an evening-length therapy session.