Redeﬁning ‘in a family way’
By Peter Marks
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
“Stopgap,” playwright Danielle Mohlman’s promising new social comedy, is a kind of updating of “The Heidi Chronicles,” the tale of a flinty young woman who opts for the concreteness of motherhood when everything else in her life is muddy.
The manner in which the unattached May (Caitlin Diana Doyle), a twentysomething teacher in the Los Angeles suburb of Chino Hills, achieves this goal is a pivotal point of the play, well directed by Jamila Reddy and running as part of the Capital Fringe Festival in a tiny basement space of the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church. Although at an hour and 50 minutes the piece is wildly overlong -- it tends to repeat itself a heck of a lot -- the perceptive Mohlman creates a gallery of characters believably engaged in the struggle to shed the solipsism of young adulthood for a life filled with more serious purpose.
Like Wendy Wasserstein’s Heidi, Mohlman’s May -- played by Doyle with a credibly uncompromising countenance -- is looking for emotional sustenance without having to settle. As with Heidi, too, the most fulfilling male relationship in her life is with a gay man, Michael Litchfield’s compelling Robert, who’s married to David (the excellent Jonathan W. Colby), a character far more prepared for parenthood, it seems, than either Robert or May.
The cruel way that Robert betrays David with May is cleverly up-to-the-minute: Mohlman’s plot device makes narrative sense and comments meaningfully on the array of new opportunities for heartbreak presented by changes in societal values as well as technology. Departing from “Heidi,” “Stopgap” does not deal quite so much with having it all as whom you have it with.
At times, “Stopgap” lapses into excessive verbosity, and as a result, the piece can feel as if it’s treading water. Still, it remains a solid showcase for a strong ensemble that also includes Megan Westman, Eileen Haley and Travis Blumer, all of whom hold up extremely well in a space so small an audience practically lives in “Stopgap” with them.