'Lost Girls': Theater Review
A teenage girl goes missing during a fierce blizzard in John Pollono's New England-set drama starring Piper Perabo.
You practically feel a chill in the opening moments of John Pollono's terrific new play Lost Girls, set in New Hampshire during a fierce nor'easter. Snow is swirling outside the window of Richard Hoover's set depicting a modest apartment, as a radio announcer warns people not to drive unless absolutely necessary.
But for Maggie, the financially struggling single mother played by Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly, USA Network's Covert Affairs), the troubles are only beginning. She walks outside to discover that her car has been stolen. And then she finds out that it probably wasn't stolen, as her 17-year-old daughter didn't show up at school and has apparently gone missing.
Helping Maggie cope with her ordeal is her tart-tongued mother, Linda (Tasha Lawrence), who lives with her; her ex-husband, Lou (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), a cop who enlists his colleagues in the search; and his new wife, Penny (Meghann Fahy), whose sweet nature makes her an object of ridicule for Maggie and her mother.
"I don't really 'do' sarcasm," Penny informs them, using air quotes.
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Lost Girls alternates between scenes featuring the adults, who become increasingly fearful after they hear about a terrible multicar highway accident, and others depicting the interactions of a teenage girl (Lizzy DeClement) and boy (Josh Green) in a cheap Connecticut hotel room. On their way to California, where she's to be reunited with a much older man with whom she's romantically involved, they've stopped to take refuge from the blizzard.
The girl is sharp-edged and cynical; the boy is good-natured and idealistic and, he soon reveals, has been in love with her since they were little children. She's initially resistant to his sweet talk, but over the long evening he wears down her emotional defenses. They enjoy a blissful night during which he loses his virginity and they make a blood oath to be together for the rest of their lives — or if not, to make love again "when we're old."
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Pollono, who explored similar regional, blue-collar territory in his acclaimed Small Engine Repair, has a gift for incisive characterizations and pungently comic dialogue. The social status of Maggie and her mother is neatly summed up by the latter's observation about their ages when they had babies.
"Every generation we get better," she points out. "My ma was 15, I was 16, you 17."
But all of the figures are given depth, especially Lou, hauntingly played by Moss-Bachrach (HBO's Girls). A recovering alcoholic who lost his first marriage due to his self-destructive behavior — including nearly smothering his infant daughter to death by accident — he's a deeply sympathetic figure still traumatized by the murder of a two-year-old girl whose body he discovered.
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The play works well both as a tense family drama and a moving portrayal of burgeoning teenage romance, and is further elevated by a wickedly clever narrative twist that completely upends our perceptions of nearly everything that's occurred.
Under the excellent direction of Jo Bonney, the ensemble shines, with all the actors delivering memorably vivid performances. The technical elements are sharp, with Hoover's sets and Theresa Squire's costumes perfectly conveying the working-class milieu.
Cast: Lizzy DeClement, Meghann Fahy, Josh Green, Tasha Lawrence, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Piper Perabo
Playwright: John Pollono
Director: Jo Bonney
Set designer: Richard Hoover
Costume designer: Theresa Squire
Lighting designer: Lap Chi Chu
Music and sound designer: Daniel Kluger
Presented by the MCC Theater