Parent’s weekend at summer camp brings to light family issues in Theater J’s latest one-act play.
There is no such thing as a perfect family and the upper class Nadelman family in Anna Ziegler’s “Another Way Home,” now at Theatre J, proves that premise – a workaholic, successful father, a smothering mother, and two children — one an angry 16-year-old boy and the other a super student daughter who is fascinated with the music of Taylor Swift.
The caldron bubbles over when the parents, played by the deservedly acclaimed Rick Foucheux and Naomi Jacobson show up at Camp Kickapoo in Maine to see their surly son, Joey, (Chris Stinson) an excessively angry teenager. Joey hates that his parents are visiting, with his mother arriving and asking if he is using sun block, showering and an array of nagging that drives him to run away.
Ziegler, who premiered this play in San Francisco in 2012, looks sympathetically at the Nadelman family. They think sending their angry son to the rustic Camp Kickapoo with other privileged kids will get him out of New York’s comfortable Upper East Side where they live and where swimming and sports will change his mood.
Sleepaway summer camp is tradition in some social circles where the parents tell their children outdoors activities will be fun and develop character, while many of the children, however, know it is an opportunity for the parents to get them out of the house for a few weeks, especially providing a respite from a difficult son like Joey.
For the Nadelmans, driving up for a parents weekend visit brings the disarray of their family into a focus they had no intention of facing. But when Joey, a name his mother doesn’t want to accept, explodes in rage and runs off for a day and a night, his parents are forced to confront their problems. Once madly in love with each other, they have drifted with Philip the father work-obsessed, and his wife, Lillian, who was once a creative photographer, succumbing into the thankless role of a overprotective, nagging mother.
There is also Joey’s sister Nora, (Shayna Blass) who has stayed behind in New York. She is brainy and is the child anchor for her parents who, with Joey’s running off into the woods, begin angrily bickering with each other. Ziegler has been careful to project that the Nadelmans don’t hate each other but are caught up in uncontrollable forces that are polarizing them.
One other character in “Another Way Home” is Mike, portrayed by Thony Mena as a senior camp counselor, a young black man who seems to understand Joey and secretly envies the family he doesn’t have. He grew up on the other side of the lake from the camp of privileged kids and had wanted to be part of their summer activities.
Shirley Serotsky’s careful direction of the short one-act play in which there is no easily resolvable conclusion, understands the Nadelmans, people who love each other but are caught up in more normal pressures of upper, middle class life. Looking at them as a family that has it all is a misconception since no family can achieve whatever the perception of perfect is.
“Another Way Home” runs through July 17 at Theater J.