The Roundabout Theater Company debuts "The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin," the latest offering from its New Play initiative aimed at producing new work by both emerging and established artists. Time Out New York's David Cote filed the following review for NY1.
The title of Steven Levenson's new play for the Roundabout is kind of euphemistic, so let me spell it out. "The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin" is about a father released after five years in jail for financial fraud. He tries to reconnect with his family, particularly his son. But a title that beats around the bush is apt. No one in this story is ready to face the crime and its aftermath head on, especially the disgraced patriarch.
Once a wealthy lawyer at a prestigious firm, Tom Durnin is now disbarred, divorced and pulling lattes in a Borders book store. Using every manipulative trick in the book, he crashes at his son's house for a month as he tries to contact his ex-wife and even blackmail his way back into the firm.
David Morse plays this complex, potentially vile character with a masterful mix of arrogance and geniality, hot temper and cold conscience. As his emotionally scarred son, James, Christopher Denham wins our sympathy, trying to balance filial instincts with profound resentment. There are also well-shaded portraits by Sarah Goldberg as James's love interest and Lisa Emery as his doting mother. Rich Sommer, who you may recognize from AMC's Mad Men, plays Tom’s humorously put-upon son-in-law.
But despite these fine actors and Levenson's smart, flowing dialogue, the 100-minute play is all set-up and no motion. It gets repetitive, and while there's a hint of healing at the end, it takes a long time to get there.
Scott Ellis' clean direction and the expert ensemble serve the material well, but its cumulative impact is unfortunately like the security was in Tom Durnin's white-collar prison: minimal.