The idea for AdA (Author directing Author) must have sounded wonderfully symmetrical when the evening’s two playwrights conceived it. First, Marco Calvani, a young Italian dramatist, and the American Off-Broadway veteran Neil LaBute would separately pen a one-act on the theme of family. Then, in New York, each writer would direct the other’s play, revealing contrasts and common threads.
Unfortunately, the logic of play commissioning does not always result in a satisfactory raison d’etre for a theater piece. Here LaBute offers another of his tedious fables about unhappy urbanites with loose morals and little humanity (in this case, a pouty call girl and her paternalistic patron, played by Gia Crovatin and Larry Pine). Calvani sketches an irritating and familiar rant, made by an overbearing matron (Estelle Parsons) who expresses disapproval of her long-suffering son (Craig Bierko) and his economic and romantic shortcomings. Calvani’s piece collapses, slowly, under the weight of a stilted translation and stiff staging. Although each play offers a twist or two, and comments on the subjugations and hierarchies we assign to blood ties, both authors confine their investigations to the parlors of the affluent class—long the domain of deadly domestic drama. Why this kind of work is now a focal point for La MaMa—once a home for revolts against stale conventions—poses a mystery far more difficult to comprehend than the family secrets unraveled in AdA.