We've come a long way, baby! Or maybe not. Many classic Greek tragedies are built around grotesque family entanglements. So is David Caudle's Visiting Hours, currently receiving its world premiere at Mid-City Theatre. Visiting Hours launches dysfunction into 21st century Florida — with a lesbian couple and their criminal son.
The play is neither especially foul-mouthed or cynical. It's a drama built on the feelings of real characters, and the story is credible although it echoes absurd news stories that leave you scratching your head.
Marian (Becki Davis) and Beth (Tari Hohn) are longtime lovers. Marian was married previously and had a child, Paul (Nick Thompson), but the father left her.
Paul grew up, left home and has been out of touch with his lesbian parents for more than two years. We gather he's been a small-time crook and has caused considerable trouble. Marian and Beth have gone just about broke paying his debts. Fortunately, a boozy friend, Nat (Becky Allen), took them in and they live in a garage rent-free.
Into this garage walks a young woman named Shelly (Jessie Terrebonne). She's a cheeky, punk type who seems to shift shape and identity at will. She also seems to be a con artist. Nat catches her in the garage, and Shelly offers sex in exchange for $3,000. When Marian and Beth come home, they are amazed to meet Shelly, who asks if she can stay with them.
Nat wants Shelly to leave, and since she's letting Marian and Beth stay there for free she has some leverage. The story takes a sharp turn when Shelly reveals she wants the money to pay Paul's bail.
Marian hurries off to see her son at the courthouse. In the reunion, he doesn't exactly melt with sentiment. In fact, he's got a hard, cynical side. He convinces his mother to use her car as collateral for bail, and he moves in with her and her partner.
The garage starts to resemble a snake pit. Shelly changes her story whenever convenient, and she claims to be pregnant with Paul's child. She lives on the edge of hysteria and easily tumbles in; at one point, she locks herself in a room and threatens to drink a bottle of drain cleaner.
This lowlife group thrives on drama and part of the interest in the play is trying to pin down the characters' real natures. They contradict each other radically. It becomes clear Paul is nearly psychopathic; he's cruel and antisocial. He steals his mother's money and the car she put up as collateral to secure his bail.
The complexity and desperation of the tale may sound off-putting, but the scenes are well-written. Under Ann Mahoney Kadar's direction, the excellent cast brings this dark contemporary tale to life with verve and veracity. — Dalt Wonk