Jason Bradley, Kate Hampton, Jud Williford and Scott Kerns in the Asolo Rep’s The Innocents.
Who are the innocents in Steven Drukman’s new play The Innocents, now onstage in a world premiere at the Asolo Rep? Are they the approaching-40 couple, Daniel and Edie, planning to have a baby together even though Daniel is gay? Are they the two young men who enter their lives and alter the family dynamic? Or are they us—the audience, Americans in general, etc.?
The answer to that question shifts back and forth during the evening, providing some food for thought on what family means and what people will do to attain their version of a family. We first meet Daniel (Jud Williford) as he’s coming off another in what seems to be a series of one-night stands with a new young man, the Israeli Liron (Scott Kerns), he picked up at the airport in San Francisco, where he and Edie share a home. Edie’s used to Daniel’s sexual escapades, and it doesn’t matter to her as long as he’s the father to the baby they’re trying to create. Daniel shouldn’t be jealous, either, when professor Edie (Kate Hampton) begins a relationship with a young graduate student, Sutter (Jason Bradley). And for a time it does seem that all four can live, in some accepted fashion, under one roof—a family for the 21st century.
But things get more complicated, of course, and Daniel’s opening line of the play—“It began innocently enough”—continues to gain new meanings as we learn more about the characters and their motivations. Lies are told, trust is shattered—who will end up getting what they want?
The play is sharply directed by Anders Cato, and Drukman’s dialogue and sense of scene development are often equally sharp. The Innocents can be funny, and it can be painful.
But I found myself not quite as involved for the course of the whole evening as I wanted to be. In part, that’s because I found the initial motivation for Daniel and Edie wanting a baby so passionately (the fact that Daniel himself was adopted figures in, but doesn’t seem totally convincing) lacking; they don’t really seem like people for whom a child is suddenly the most important thing in their lives. And overall, they’re not as interesting as the two younger characters, especially Liron, played with energy and finesse by Kerns. The air becomes more electric whenever he’s onstage, and he and Bradley, in their scenes together, make a compelling counterpart to Daniel and Edie.
Perhaps there are ways for Drukman to heighten the Daniel-Edie relationship in this new work, which sprang from last year’s Unplugged series of new play readings at the Asolo Rep. As it stands now, there are still enough powerful moments to make The Innocents worth seeing.
The play continues through May 14 in the Cook Theatre; for tickets call 351-8000 or go to asolorep.org.