‘Harbor’ with Randy Harrison Opens Off Broadway: REVIEW
BY NAVEEN KUMAR
Harbor, a topical yet formulaic new play about a gay married couple whose placid lives are shaken up by a surprise family visit, opened Off Broadway Tuesday at Primary Stages.
Written by Chad Beguelin, primarily known for his work as a lyricist and musical book writer (Elf, The Wedding Singer), Harbor takes a post-DOMA look at one couple’s decision whether or not to raise children, and ultimately questions what makes for lasting family ties.
Ted (Paul Anthony Stewart) and Kevin (Randy Harrison) live comfortably in Sag Harbor—Ted the mature breadwinner and Kevin the younger, stay-at-home unpublished writer. Meanwhile, Kevin’s estranged sister Donna (Erin Cummings) and her daughter Lottie (Alexis Molnar) live out of their van, Donna acting more like a rebellious teen and Lottie like the responsible guardian.
When the two show up at Ted and Kevin’s out of the blue, Donna’s seemingly innocent question about whether they want kids sets Ted off on a rant about the pressures to start a family. Kevin tries to put out the flames, and half-heartedly agrees that they don’t want kids. By the end of the first scene, Donna reveals (much to Lottie’s dismay) that she’s expecting.
What begins as an overnight visit turns into something of an extended stay—the palpable culture clash giving way as Kevin and Donna fall back into their brother-sister routine, and Ted and Lottie bond over their knack for acting rational.
Serviceably directed by Mark Lamos, Beguelin’s play is at times touching, thoughtful and quite funny. Though ultimately Harbor rarely pushes very far beyond the stereotypes that prescribe its characters, or the formulas that dictate their relationships.
Along with other gay stereotypes traded on in the script (eg Ted’s knack for interior design and weakness for Barney’s), Ted and Kevin’s keeper-and-kept relationship is a well-worn dynamic in popular depictions of gay characters (one Harrison memorably spent years playing on Queer as Folk). Donna and Lottie’s mother-daughter role reversal feels similarly prescriptive and familiar.
When the two pairs come together—the couple with a palatial home but no children or uterus between them, and the mother-daughter with no home and one on the way—the ensuing plot turns into a sort of human math problem.
The ensemble add color to Beguelin’s otherwise somewhat bluntly drawn characters. Harrison warms up and settles into his performance as Kevin once the arrival of his on-stage sis tousles his character’s Sag Harbor exterior. Cummings navigates Donna’s shifting exterior and careful manipulations with ease, while Stewart lends heart to boozy businessman Ted. As Lottie, Molnar’s brainy and misunderstood teenager is definitely the one worth rooting for.
That the relationships explored in Harbor aren’t wildly original isn’t really a problem—they’re familiar for a reason—but Beguelin’s characters rarely surpass or surprise the expectations they set up from the outset.
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Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos:carol rosegg)