Vanishing Points, by Martin Jones, is a play with a problem. Based on true events, a midwestern family has been horrifically murdered in their home. Beth, the middle daughter and a promising sketch artist, happens to be off in the fields smoking weed with her deadbeat boyfriend, dodging the fate of her younger sister, mother and father. A survivor out of circumstance, Beth spends the remainder of the story searching for meaning while running away from it.
But that’s not the problem.
The problem is, while a promising concept, Jones hasn’t found a compelling narrative drive. We know the murders are unsolved, so the story quickly becomes about Beth working through the grief and guilt. It’s a uniquely internal conflict — which would be more arresting if Jones didn’t resort to clichéd dialog and repetitive flashback/dream sequences. You know where it’s all going way before it gets there. And rarely does Beth, our vessel into this story, open up in such a way that really makes us truly empathize with her situation: she comes across as a victim.
That said, Point of Contention offers a very strong production of this meandering work. Director Dan Foss approaches the subject matter with sensitivity, creativity and clarity, and has assembled a smart, able cast. Leading the group is the dynamic, yet understated Stacie Hauenstein as Beth, who does everything humanly possible with this severely underwritten role. The beautifully natural Morgan Manasa also makes a strong impression as Beth’s older sister, Fran. And Victoria Bucknell steals all her scenes as younger sister Barbara, and, in act two, as the lovable eccentric Vicki.
The final scenes, thanks to sincere acting by Manasa and Hauenstein, begin to forge an emotional connection with the audience and establish as much of a conclusion one could hope for when dealing with an unsolved murder. I just wish Jones’ writing was on par with the overall quality of this production.
“Vanishing Points,” presented by Point of Contention plays through March 20 at the BoHo Theatre. Go here for more information >