The Gaesling family is besieged. It’s 1917. Father has recently died, and the Great War in Europe has called elder son Duncan (Evan Jonigkeit) from Princeton’s supper clubs to the front. But another calamity — this one financial and self-imposed — threatens the Gaeslings and their dependent friends, who have gathered at the family’s comfortable hunting lodge near Syracuse. The widow Elizabeth (Mary-Louise Parker) alternates between denial and distress; her younger son, Arnold (Brian Cross), smolders with anger.
The Snow Geese, a new play by Sharr White now receiving a glossy staging at Manhattan Theatre Club, longs to express something about this forgotten American era and to mirror our own. But the drama dwells on weary domestic ruptures and rarely moves beyond. The strongest scenes center on — what else? — a simmering conflict between the two brothers: With a forceful performance, Cross makes Arnold by far the most interesting character on stage — consumed by his righteousness, susceptible in his grief. Parker, an MTC veteran, looks young for her matriarch role, which is never satisfyingly defined or developed in the script, but finds some dimension in a late scene, when Elizabeth finally expresses tenderness for the boys about to leave her diminishing flock. Daniel Sullivan’s direction keeps the story level and, with striking projections of birds in formation, proclaims the title’s metaphor once more.