Apologia – Attempts to Justify Poor Parenting

Apologia, Alexi Kaye Campbell’s 2009 play, first produced in London starring Stockard Channing is now stateside at the Roundabout Theater. ‘Apologia’ does not mean apology. It means “a formal, written defense of one’s opinions or conduct”. Everyone in this dysfunctional family dramedy is on the defense as Ms. Channing’s character, Kristen Miller, attacks.

Kristin Miller, an art historian, came of age in the radical ‘60s protesting the war, the government and all it represented and she expects everyone to live up to her ideals. The setting is Kristin’s home, where she’s hosting a small dinner party to celebrate her birthday and the recent publication of her memoir. The guests include her best friend and comrade from the protest years, her two sons Peter and Simon (both played by Hugh Dancy) and their girlfriends. When Peter and his very straight-laced conservative Christian girlfriend arrive, they find Kristin battling her stove which won’t get hot enough to cook the chicken. This is pretty obvious foreshadowing of  a dinner party that is about to go from bad to worse. It gets hot in that house as tempers flare. Hostility and disappointment simmer just under the surface.

In Apologia Ms. Channing commands the stage with her caustic wit and sarcasm. Zinger after zinger is aimed at her guests and you can feel the sting. But the sharpness of her tongue covers a grave disappointment and a broken heart. Her sons want to know why she abandoned them without a fight and why they weren’t mentioned in her memoir. The girlfriends are treated as intellectually inferior and Kristin seems disappointed that her dearest friend has no fight left in him. Mr. Campbell’s play doesn’t flesh out  these supporting characters, although the actors do their best with what little they have to work with. As directed by Daniel Aukin this dinner party seems to be missing a key ingredient. LAR

Roundabout – Laura Pels Theater, 111 W. 46th St.

Ticket price: $99

Discounts: $59 with codes from BroadwayBox, Theatermania

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes, one intermission

Runs thru: December 16, 2018

 

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