The surgeon has a secret, a dark one he fears to share, even with himself.
When we meet Dr. David Shaw on the patio of his lakeside home, he's watching a recording of a news report on his rescue from Taliban captors. He plays it over and over, listening most intently when the name of the soldier killed on his behalf is spoken. In Cheryl Navo's drama, making its world premiere at Lindenhurst's Studio Theatre, David, a plastic surgeon, was a Physicians Without Borders volunteer in Afghanistan when he was detained. Since his return, he's been under self-imposed house arrest.
David's wife, Monica, whose biological alarm clock has been ringing for months, finds herself virtually estranged from her husband. Complicating Monica's hormonal and marital stress is her sister's news that their Alzheimer's-afflicted mom has been thrown out of her assisted living residence. Mother is moving in. David copes by going fishing with a young neighbor obsessed with numbers. Ned wonders aloud if it's possible to count all the fish in the lake without draining it.
David Rifkind, as the tortured doctor, convinces us of his unbearable survivor's guilt, while Gail Merzer Behrens as Monica matches his distress. Her efforts to coax David out of his wide-awake coma are fruitless. While Monica protests that caring for her husband makes it impossible to take in Mom, her sister (lawyerly Kathleen Mary Carthy) proves persuasive. Alice, their mother, presents an enigmatic split personality as played by Frances McGarry, alternately forgetting who and where she is and mistaking the distant past for the present. The constant distraction of Alice ironically has the effect of clarifying the paralysis in Monica and David's relationship. But it's David's growing affection for fishing that gives him strength to confess his secret.
Navo's naturalistic writing -- the retired officer with the U.S. medical center in Germany has an ear for unaffected conversation -- gives us reason to care about what happens next. (Studio's mission is to present a world premiere at least once a year.)
As directed by David Dubin on Erick Creegan's somberly lit, comfortably appointed set, "Lie of Omission" might have come into sharper focus with bursts of anger by each pivotal character to match that of Kevin Ganzekaufer as Ned, berating himself for his obsessive tendencies. Such outbursts, without changing a line, could make Novo's fine play and its surprise ending -- some of you will guess it -- electrifying rather than merely plausible.
WHAT "Lie of Omission"
WHEN | WHERE Thursday, Sept. 10, then Friday-Saturday nights at 8, 2:30 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 20, Studio Theatre, 141 S. Wellwood Ave., Lindenhurst
TICKETS $25; 631-226-8400, studiotheatreli.com