Unless you have a high tolerance for selfish behavior, “Lake Anne” probably won’t float your boat. This downbeat new drama about an ex-ballerina and her developmentally disabled son proves a leaky vessel with which to launch the Road Theatre Company’s first full season in its impressive second location, a 77-seat performance space in the NoHo Senior Arts Colony.
Awash with clumsy, filler-laden scripting and uneven performances, Marthe Rachel Gold’s play revolves around Anne (Laurie O’Brien), a former star dancer bitterly mourning a career shipwrecked by the birth of her son Will (Alex Smith), now 23 but mentally stuck in pre-adolescence.
Emotionally and financially adrift after the recent death of her husband, Anne is in denial about both Will’s urgent need for heart surgery and the impending foreclosure of the lakeside home that has anchored her family for generations.
Whatever compassion we might feel for Anne’s dark heading is sharply curtailed by her relentlessly defeatist attitude and increasingly bad choices, including an icky flirtation with her dancer nephew (Michael Traynor) that only floats the stereotype of artists as self-absorbed flakes.
O’Brien’s foundering delivery does her character no favors, torpedoing valiant attempts at authentic connection by Smith and Laura Gardner as Anne’s practical sister-in-law. Only Smith’s masterful performance, with its accurately detailed palsy movements and childlike innocence, salvages a measure of credibility and sympathy. JR Bruce’s scenic design provides welcome visual ballast.
In his program notes, director John Frank Levey claims this is “a play about love, and that gap, that gulf, chasm, that empty space between intention and result.” Problem is, there’s no such gap in evidence — the characters’ actions align perfectly with their motives, which are for the most part so self-centered it makes you want to keelhaul the lot of them.
“Lake Anne,” the Road on Magnolia, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 9. $34. (866) 506-1248 or www.roadtheatre.org. Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes.