Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake)
By Sheila Callaghan. Dirs. Jarrett Dapier and Krissy Vanderwarker. With Brad Gallagher, David Gray, Holly Hofmann, Laurie Larson, Marisa Lark Wallin. Dog & Pony Theatre Company at Athenaeum.
Although Crumble is as feverishly ambitious as the daydreams of its moony preteen heroine, Dog & Pony thankfully grounds it with a dose of solid emotion. And while "Justin Timberlake" (Gallagher) does indeed appear in all his gelled-hair, high-pitched glory, Larson's dexterous maternal performance gravely centers a play that's as spackled and disjointed as the dilapidated apartment in which it's set. In fact, the Apartment (Gray) is a character in the play, a whiny—and horny—deus ex machina that, instead of descending in a sweeping rescue, surrounds and provokes its helpless denizens: a mother, Clara (Larson), and Janice, her 11-year-old daughter (Wallin), facing the first Christmas after the death of Janice's father in a freak holiday-decorating accident. Janice is secretly brewing up a bomb in her pink girl's tea set to greet the grim anniversary, which Clara's cat-collecting sister ineptly diagnoses as a result of boy craziness.
Playwright Callaghan is a little too in love with all this artifice, and directors Dapier and Vanderwarker abet the playwright's excesses by allowing Wallin to mug a bit too distractingly. But see this show for Gray's lissome, funny work, an embodiment of a finely detailed set by Grant Sabin, and for Larson, who, though saddled with a lot of metaphor-heavy worrying, steers the play back to its undeniable heart: the reunion of a mother and daughter fractured by grief.—Megan Powell