Just when it looked like Williamstown Theatre Festival had eschewed sitcom-style fare along comes Sharyn Rothstein’s “Tell Me I’m Not Crazy”, a clichéd pablum of social issues squeezed into an endless 100 minute television comedy/melodrama format. Sixty-two year old Sol (Mark Blum), forced into retirement after a lifetime on the job, buys a gun to protect his condo unit from a spat of robberies. The gun offends the moral sensitivities of his 60 year old, school teacher wife Diana (Jane Kaczmarek). Sol and Diana’s son, Nate (Mark Feuerstein) a struggling photographic artist and stay-at-home dad, and Latina wife Alisa (Nicole Villamil), a fast-rising account exec at a big advertising firm, refuse to allow grandpa and grandma to babysit the grandkids, a 6 month old and a 3 year old with behavioral issues, with a gun on the premises.
A kitchen sink of familiar White People Problems gets unpacked. Can Sol rise above his feelings of disenfranchisement after a lifetime of hard work? Can Diana overcome her feelings of generational resentment to her daughter-in-law who wants it all, career and motherhood both? Will Nate be able to sustain emotionally his support for Diana’s career while putting his own on the back-burner? Will Alisa overcome her feelings of insecurity about being a minority and female trophy for the company she works for? Will she be able to pump enough breast milk and still take the big job in another city away from home? When it comes to a problem child, should old-fashioned, home values about child-rearing supersede day-care facility diagnostics? Will Diana and Sol ever have sex again?
The force-fed, sitcom humor is never really funny, and often groan-inducing or offensive. Diane dismisses concerns that Sol’s bad aim could fire a stray bullet on an annoying neighbor with the quip - it would “bounce off her Botox” anyway. Try that one on a Sandy Hook parent. Later, when Sol does get off a shot, mistakenly thinking robbers were afoot, he accidentally shoots the neighbor’s dog. Would that make Tamar Rice’s mother feel better?
Ms Kaczmarek, who spent years as the mom on the series “Malcolm in the Middle”, and Mr. Feuerstein, who was a regular on the long-running “Royal Pains”, navigate the hackneyed script better than Mr. Blum or Ms Villamil perhaps because they're so familiar with this kind of material. "Tell Me I'm Not Crazy" concludes like standard sitcom - rather cutesy. Had I happened on the likes of this story on television, I would have grabbed the remote and changed the channel. I’d never expect to find it on the historic Nikos Stage.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!