A Delicate Balance October 11-12, 8 p.m.; October 13, 2 p.m.; $11-$12. Las Vegas Little Theatre, 362-7996.
“Bring your plague!” Tobias shouts at his best friend near the end of A Delicate Balance, begging for some assurance that he is wanted, that there is a relationship in his life made of more than spite and bile. This longing for connection runs throughout Edward Albee’s classic play but seems largely ignored in the Las Vegas Little Theatre’s current production, leaving me thinking the same thing: Bring the plague. Bring the utter, icy dread of anxiety and the viciousness that attempts to deflect it. Instead, all we got was fuzziness.
The fuzziness starts with Agnes (played by Mary Alice Brunod Burack) sitting in the upper-crust parlor of her East Coast home in the 1960s, musing aloud to her husband Tobias (Kerry Carnohan) about her fears that she’ll go mad and how she’ll know if she does. But this is delivered nearly as direct address, changing the words from attacks to musings and denaturing their venom. This trend continues when Agnes’ sister Claire (Rosemary Maciel) delivers a monologue to the audience about why AA is not for her. She’s not playing to Tobias, she’s not even doing anything active within the space itself, she’s just ... reciting.
When Harry and Edna (the couple’s “very best friends,” played by Mike Hubbard and Vanessa Coleman) arrive late in Act 1 suffering from an unnamed terror and claim a place in the house—much to the consternation of Tobias and Agnes’ daughter, Julia (Stephanie Roybal), who is home separated from her fourth husband—Claire intones that things can really begin.
And for a time in Act 2 they do. Roybal brings a wild spark to Julia that pushes in all the right directions, and Coleman is unnervingly smug as Edna, unfazed by whomever she upsets. As Act 3 ramps up and Agnes finally levels her guns at Harry, Burack finds a reservoir of spite for her inner harridan. And when Tobias finally confronts the emptiness of his relationships, pleading with Harry to stay, Carnohan reveals some of the desperation and will his character possesses. But these are intermittent moments in a three-act play, and merely illuminate the inability to convey subtext throughout the show as a whole. This play should be a fight, and except for a few moments, it didn’t feel like one.