… partial redemption …

Dawn at The Flea Theater has lots to keep you interested including vivid and sensational scenes, great acting and important content — alcoholism and child sexual abuse.  It would be stronger if it did not struggle with problems of character and plot.

In the most powerful episode, a pedophile Uncle transforms an on-line Lolita into his sexual partner all the way to rolling-on-the-floor-naked success.  It’s the crux in this play of family disaster and a classic scene:  well observed, well written, an engine for the narrative and on a significant topic.

But other scenes are only titillating ad-ons.  A gorgeous young actress in a Victoria’s Secret garter belt ensemble lustily climbs astride her elderly, gin sodden husband, failing to get a rise out of him.  It’s part of a subplot that brings hype to the play, not drama, and doesn’t ring true.

The acting hits every target.  Gerry Bamman as the successful business man and elderly alcoholic conveys psychological nuance and hilarity — he’s never out of character.  Irene Walsh as the desirous younger wife, Kate Benson as the ironic but vulnerable first wife, Laura Esterman as the beleaguered mother of the sexually abused 14 year old, Steven as the God loving abuser, Jenny Seastone Stern as the 14 year old “in love” with her Uncle — all are perfect.

But in spite of their best efforts, the play is unconvincing.  How on earth does this elderly, violent, man who polishes off gin by the quart maintain his successful business and — if that were not enough — remain an object of sexual and emotional desire for two women?  Why on earth is his young wife filled with lust for an old drunk who doesn’t reciprocate her passion, and why so unwilling to leave him?  Why should we believe in the facile religious conversion of this brutal, dyed-in-the-wool alcoholic?

The ending, though, is smart, thought provoking and true — it goes part way to redeem the rest.

DAWN plays at The Flea Theater on White Street in Manhattan’s Tribeca, through December 6.