Sometimes it feels as if American domestic dramas come out of the same kit with premade ingredients. Of Good Stock, a new play by Melissa Ross, shares so many routine elements with its kin that the family scenario feels familiar and overwrought from the outset. Affluent New Yorkers in the country for a weekend jaunt. Three sisters, one with an illness. Secret pregnancies and surprise engagements. Alcohol. Throw in the jokes about kale-eating Brooklyn hipsters, add water (drunken confession scenes on Cape Cod) and voilà: dysfunction to serve six characters!
Ross writes with a decent ear for the self-absorbed verbal musings of the entitled class, but when the cast overlap their lines in Lynne Meadow’s staging, the dialogue comes off self-conscious and strained. Yes, beneath the siblings’ gibes and love-hate skirmishes there’s a theme about time. Of Good Stock hinges on the question of whether the three adult daughters of a famous long-dead author (a womanizer) are now too damaged to find happiness. As the long-suffering eldest, Amy, Alicia Silverstone brings plausible peevishness. Her nasal and squealy sisters (and their men) are too broadly sketched for us to care. But that’s OK, because the ending never stands in doubt. As every dysfunctional-family-play goer knows, grudging love must carry the day before all the overused dramatic parts go back into the box.
Of Good Stock
By Melissa Ross
Manhattan Theatre Club at City Center Stage I
131 West 55th Street