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Theater Review: 'We Live Here' -- 2.5 stars

Amy Irving (L), Jeremy Shamos (C), and Jessica

Amy Irving (L), Jeremy Shamos (C), and Jessica Collins star in Z "We Live Here." (Joan Marcus) Credit: Amy Irving (L), Jeremy Shamos (C), and Jessica Collins star in Z "We Live Here." (Joan Marcus)

We Live Here
2.5 stars

It was supposed to be such a nice weekend. After all, the entire Bateman family has convened at their spacious suburban home — which looks like something straight out of an IKEA catalogue — for the wedding of their oldest daughter Allie.

Upon arriving, younger daughter Dinah, a 19-year-old Juilliard student with a history of anorexia, nervously reminds her mother — who’s been curiously opening up all the wedding gifts herself — how she was allowed to bring a date to the wedding. In short order, it becomes clear that trouble will be arriving at the front door — literally.

Dinah’s date turns out to be Daniel, a former friend of the family who now teaches at Juilliard. Sure, he’s a decade older than Allie, but that doesn’t seem to be the real issue. But when Allie sees him, she nearly faints from the shock. Why is that?

Throughout the course of casual conversation, it is revealed that Daniel used to date Allie’s twin sister Andy, a musical prodigy who hanged herself after she stopped taking her medication. It appears that Allie and Daniel also have their own sexual history, which is revealed in a flashback.

“We Live Here” marks the first play written by actress Zoe Kazan — the granddaughter of legendary film and stage director Elia Kazan — to be produced in New York. Kazan has recently appeared onstage in “The Behanding at Spokane,” “The Seagull” and last season’s revival of “Angels in America.”

Although Kazan is tackling the admittedly tired genre of the picture-perfect middle-class family hiding (gasp!) a dark secret, she manages to keep the audience engaged thanks to her compelling characters.

It also helps that Sam Gold, who has suddenly become one of New York’s hottest directors, has staged the play with an excellent cast that includes Amy Irving as the grief-stricken mother, Mark Blum as the gentle father, and a funny Jeremy Shamos as Allie’s sexually inexperienced fiancé.

But the play needs a stronger finish. As it now stands, Act 2 is barely 20 minutes long and leaves too many issues unresolved. But given the strength of Act 1, Kazan should be up to the challenge.

If you go: “We Live Here” plays at City Center through Nov. 6. 131 W. 55th St., 212-581-1212.


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