The play opens with Walker Janeway (Joe Hilsee), the bright nervous son of Ned, who has recently died. Through a humorous, high-strung monologue he tells the audience about his father’s work ("Janeway House,” Walker reminds us, “you’ve seen the famous picture in Life magazine!"), his “wholly sane sister” Nan (Amber Miller), and his “less than sane” mother, Lina (now confined to a mental hospital). Eventually, his sister arrives at the flat he’s staying in—this happens to be the old office space out of which Ned and his partner, Theo Wexler, operated.
While staying here, Walker has found his father’s old journal. And although the entries strike both Walker and the audience initially as irrefutable proof of his father’s almost inhuman detachment, the seemingly unemotional entries take on a world of gravity as the second half of the show unfolds and we learn the meaning behind them.
Joe Hilsee brings a terrific nervous tension to the role of Walker. The character is at turns brilliant, frightened and funny. Hilsee’s body language perfectly captures the manic movements of someone so fraught with anxiety he hasn’t slept in three days. Hilsee does a terrific about-face as Ned—this character is slower, calmer. Amber Miller portrays sister Nan and mother Lina as distinctly different people, the one a somewhat reserved, married mother of two and the other a sultry, high-strung creature who wants nothing more than “someone to talk back to me.” Miller is quite good, although occasionally her Southern accent drops out. Still, her nuances and mannerisms are generally so good, the vanishing accent matters little. As both Pip and Pip’s father Theo, Matt Haines is OK. His one major fault in both portrayals is his identical hand gestures—familial proximity doesn’t nearly account for such an affectation!
Gail Beterbide’s direction is effectively unobtrusive; for the most part, the blocking, pacing and choices all make perfect sense. On the tech side, costumes, lights, sound and the set are also appropriate and effective.
However, above all, this is a great script. The subtleties in the language, the implications of the relationships, and the almost mathematical themes that arise throughout the story (repeating sets of three, for instance) create a resonating depth, a sense of meaning that stays with the viewer long after the play has ended.