Young playwright Steven Levenson is unquestionably someone to watch. His new Off Broadway play The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin, raises fabulous questions about the strength of family ties amid a father's struggle to resurrect his life after a moral and financial failing. Levenson injects into this narrative the appropriate amount of scrutiny and second-guessing that leaves the audience conflicted over whether to feel remorse or contempt for the leading character. Sometimes, it's both at once.
Veteran actor David Morse perfectly captures the title role as his character seeks to do better after serving in prison for concocting a Ponzi scheme. His first stop on his journey toward redemption is at the small house of his son, James, played by Christopher Denham, where the two become awkward roommates. Once back inside James's life, Tom grows more and more manipulative, showing either his true colors or how desperate his new reality truly is. With nobody welcoming him back with open arms, Tom is forced to fend for himself and to grapple with what he has left after the storm he caused swept away everything he once had.
The toll that this relationship takes on James is central to the story, and watching James crawl back into the shell that he had somehow escaped while his father was in the slammer is difficult to witness without intervention. Tom isn't cruel, he's just hard on his luck and in need of some support. His ex-wife won't speak to him. He doesn't find any handouts from his son-in-law Chris (Rich Sommer), who is torn between his loyalties at work, at home, and to Tom for giving him opportunities in the past. Chris gets caught in the newest tidal wave that Tom creates, and he is hard-pressed to find an easy exit from Tom's claws.
But this play really soars when Tom isn't eve around. James, still nursing the wounds of a tough breakup, meets a wonderfully perky, young lady (Sarah Goldberg) who gives him the much-needed outlet to express himself and how messed up everything has become for him through no fault of his own. Watching the two of them flirt and grow closer, you get the sense that everything will somehow, miraculously, turn out all right for these folks. Even if they may never truly be a family unit again.