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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "Of Good Stock", at New York City Center Stage I
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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "Of Good Stock", at New York City Center Stage I

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Manhattan Theatre Club

Off Good Stock
(Of Good Stock Website)

By Melissa Ross
Directed by Lynne Meadow

Manhattan Theatre Club
NY City Center Stage I
West 55th Street, Btw. 6th and 7th Avenues

Artistic Director, Lynne Meadow
Executive Producer, Barry Grove

Brian Hastert, Greg Keller, Heather Lind
Nate Miller, Jennifer Mudge, Alicia Silverstone

Scenic Design: Santo Loquasto
Costume Design: Tom Broecker
Lighting Design: Peter Kaczorowski
Sound Design: David Van Tieghem
Production Stage Manager: Winnie Y. Lok
Casting: Nancy Piccione, Kelly Gillespie
General Manager: Florie Seery
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Director of Artistic Operations: Amy Gilkes Loe
Director of Marketing: Debra Waxman-Pilla
Director of Development: Lynne Randall
Production Manager: Joshua Helman
Artistic Line Producer: Barclay Stiff
General Manager, Of Good Stock:
Lindsey Sag

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 22, 2015 Matinee

One true star of today’s performance of Melissa Ross’ Of Good Stock, a new play produced by Manhattan Theatre Club, at New York City Center Stage I, was Brian Hastert, who filled in as understudy for Kelly AuCoin, in a lead role. He won applause from his theater ensemble at the curtain. The other true star of the show was Santo Loquasto, set designer extraordinaire, whose Cape Cod summer house in July swiveled around to reveal various scenic venues, such as a living room-dining room-kitchen, dining patio, and offsite beach. Stairs and auto sounds indicated shifts in mood and plot. Mr. Hastert, as Fred, the 40ish husband of Jess (Jennifer Mudge), is preparing his wife for one of those harrowing family reunions, one that requires enormous amounts of wine and scotch. Jess, coming out of a series of breast cancer treatments, visibly represses her actual state of health and emotions. She wants to see her two younger sisters, but the tension builds, with thoughts of familial landmines. Fred soothes her nerves, but their physical closeness seems to be on hiatus.

Amy (Alicia Silverstone), the middle sister, arrives with her well to do fiancé, Josh (Greg Keller), and they’re obsessed with their wedding invitations to their island, destination wedding, one that Jess may not even be able to manage. Amy flaunts her success in landing Josh as husband-to-be, but Josh and Fred have scotch and cigars at the beach, plus guy-talk, after which Josh has one of those invisible bubble thoughts that sends Amy into shrill hysteria for the remainder of this two-act play. Meanwhile, Celia (Heather Lind), the youngest sister, has also arrived, from far-off Montana, with Hunter (Nate Miller), whom she, as well, calls a fiancé, although Celia’s business loan to Hunter may be her draw. Hunter is more of an outdoorsy dude, who keeps his history and work somewhat mysterious. Yet, Hunter also serves as the family’s Greek chorus, announcing in advance the eventual relationship outcomes.

As Jess, I found Ms. Mudge to be credible and poignant, yet her character devolves into coarse histrionics at the bay (another brilliant scenic design). Jess, Amy, and Celia squabble, bringing up decades-old insults and hurts, vying for who may have been Mommy or Daddy’s favorite, and harassing Jess for a portion of the Cape home’s deed. It belongs to Jess, by inheritance, a clawing, sisterly topic, fraught with accusations. The father of the clan, Mick Stockton, was a successful novelist, and Fred was a student of the Stockton oeuvres. As Amy, Ms. Silverstone endlessly seduces, then swears, shrieks, and sobs. As Celia, a gal with an extra secret, Ms. Lind is even coarser, as if she’s rejecting her past to acclimate to Montana, where she wants to set up house with Hunter. Mr. Miller, as Hunter, is earthy and natural, a guest who does the dishes. Mr. Keller, as Josh, a briefer role, is persuasive as a man who sees his future in the family’s war play. That brings us back to Mr. Hastert, who was endearing, nurturing, witty, and mature, an actor who has mastered the persona of Fred, for just this moment. Ms. Ross’ play did not need the sisters’, group shout-and-shriek fest at the bay. She could have added a more thoughtful and complex confrontation, rather than the echoing, shrill profanities. Once again, kudos to Mr. Loquasto, for a stunning, versatile beach house set.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at