LOST GIRLS (Theatre Exile): We are all capable of redemption

Lost Girls theatre exile review
Maggie (Molly Ward), Linda (Catharine Slusar), Lou (Sean Bradley) and Penny (Amy Frear) anxiously wait for news from the brewing storm outside in Theatre Exile’s LOST GIRLS by John Pollono. Photo credit: Paola Nogueras

Let’s get this out of the way: Yes, that was me sobbing on opening night of LOST GIRLS. Oh, like you weren’t choking back tears at that twist ending, too?

LOST GIRLS is the always-excellent Theatre Exile’s emotionally charged play about three generations of women struggling to escape the cycle of poverty brought on by teen pregnancies and abandonment. The New England clan has fallen apart by the time we meet them: Grandmother Linda (Catherine Slusar) is hardly a matriarch, as she can barely manage to wake up before noon. Maggie (Molly Ward) of the middle generation is on the verge of getting fired from her department store job, and “bitter” doesn’t even begin to describe her antipathy for her ex-husband, a newly remarried cop, Lou (Sean Bradley). Meanwhile, the former high school sweethearts’ teen daughter has just driven off in the middle of a snowstorm.

That event catapults the remaining characters into a panic with—thanks to said snowstorm—plenty of time to rehash old grudges. But the story is actually made up of two parallel scenes played out on a revolving set: one side is Maggie’s sparse apartment, and the other is a shabby hotel room somewhere near Boston. In the latter, a teen boy (Trevor William Fayle) and girl (Susanne Collins) — nameless for the entirely of their performance — debate their own self-worths, get into a bar fight, and eventually, fall in love.

The 90 minutes fly by, thanks to the fast-paced dialogue — and with the revolving set, we’re never stuck in one scene long enough to get bored of it. At the same time, how could we? There are so many emotional layers to unpack here, though the predominant one is anger. Maggie, especially, can’t forgive Lou for the past indiscretions (which are revealed trickle-style throughout the show), and she certainly can’t bring herself to befriend his new wife, Penny (Amy Frear), despite Penny’s sweet demeanor.

The show suffers from one or two poor Boston accents, and the actors playing teens seem at times to be doing caricatures of Skins characters; there’s a lot of melodrama. But all is forgiven in an excellent, full-circle finale that honestly made me gasp. LOST GIRLS seeks to prove that we’re all capable of redemption, despite our previous wrongdoings — and despite the sins of those who came before us.

[Studio X, 1340 S. 13th Street] February 16–March 12, 2017; theatreexile.org

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