We all know the Anton Chekhov dictum: If you introduce a gun in a play’s first act, it’s bound to fire by the last. What does that portend for a drama like Christina Masciotti’s Adult at Abrons Arts Center? Set in a Reading, Pennsylvania, gun shop, it features several dozen rifles, handguns, and semiautomatics. But Masciotti isn’t the sort of writer to favor big bangs. Her plays focus on the nuances of character and of language, even as words are misused and misconstrued.
In Adult, college student Tara (a bratty Betsy Hogg) takes a semester off and decamps to her dad’s armory. Maybe she wants to get to know her father, Stanley (an informal Jimmie James). Maybe she wants to sort out her career goals. Maybe she wants to be closer to the boyfriend her mother can’t abide.
Under Ian Morgan’s direction, scenes bleed into one another. Not much happens, barring one climactic fight, but father and daughter do come to an understanding, remarkable as their language pulses with homonyms and malapropisms — conscious for conscience, infliction for affliction. Though it lacks the joyful coup de théâtre of Masciotti’s first play, Vision Disturbance, Adult acquires a kind of quiet force. Here’s one playwright who doesn’t need a silencer.