It all started back in the Summer of 1976, in Columbus, Ohio. “I didn’t like her child,” says one mother, layering a different level of disdain on the other, but the connection lingers as these two sit, like the acting royalty they are. They hold court at the end of a long table on a fairly barren set, warmed with the colors of growth and vegetation or cooled by the colorful geometrics of art and literature. Written with a delicate wonder by David Auburn (Proof; Lost Lake), his elegant two-handed play, Summer, 1976slowly unpacks the collision of two maternal forces destined from the first smart lines to become friends, whether they are able to see it coming or not. She’s a free spirit encountering a square, but it’s in the rewinding where we find the reward, and even though Auburn doesn’t manage to emotionally connect us to these two on as deep of a plane as we would like, the overall engagement rings true and honest, and in that coupling, we find compassion.
The “kinda uptight” Diana, played to perfection by Laura Linney (MTC/Broadway’s The Little Foxes) as only she can, sits upright and deliberate, pulling apart her counterpart with a cool detached air of superiority. Hippy chick Alice, deftly portrayed by Jessica Hecht (Broadway’s The Price) is not of a similar breed. Quirky and bohemian, she pushes buttons on the more rigid Diana without even trying, and when she does try, the response is deliciously devious. The two take us through their history, carefully and without hesitation, finding a path that is both unique and compelling while never feeling forced or obvious. Where this will lead us is never given away, but also not teased, making our journey with them delightful without ever being too edgy or tension-filled.