Amanda Peet crafts beautifully human drama in Our Very Own Carlin McCullough: EW review

Amanda Peet crafts beautifully human drama in Our Very Own Carlin McCullough: EW review:

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Our Very Own Carlin McCullough type Stage genre Drama run date 06/27/18-06/29/18 performer Mamie Gummer, Joe Tippett director Tyne Rafaeli author Amanda Peet We gave it a B+  Amanda Peet’s Our Very Own Carlin McCullough is a drama of subtle but pointed misdirection. This talky, triangular study of a 10-year-old tennis prodigy, her big-hearted coach, and her struggling single mother proves to be less straightforward than it appears, comfortable with keeping the audience off-balance and skewing their perceptions to meet those of its blinded characters. Some hardly telegraphed reveals arrive abruptly, while other seemingly foreshadowed twists never come. And yet, despite these maneuvers, the play never feels calculated. Only human.  Making its world premiere in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, Carlin McCullough — a last-minute addition to the Geffen Playhouse’s 2017-18 season, replacing Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig — serves as a resounding affirmation that Peet’s auspicious debut, the 2014 Off Broadway play The Commons of Pensacola, was no fluke. Indeed, this is an even stronger effort: patiently paced as it builds to a dramatic crescendo, and stuffed with provocative questions about parenthood, mentorship, and family structure which it neither answers nor skirts, but rather mulls over with care and intelligence.  The first, slightly scattered act establishes the play’s dynamics. Carlin (Abigail Dylan Harrison) is nothing short of a tennis prodigy. She’s still in elementary school but already able to pull off moves far beyond what her trainer, Jay (Joe Tippett), can teach her. Jay blurs the line between coach and friend. The tender first scene introduces their playful back-and-forth, his comfort touching Carlin in a platonic and instructive way. The next scene introduces Carlin’s mother, Cyn (Mamie Gummer), who’s trying to balance a full-time job with the demands of her daughter’s new schedule. She’s also developed a bit of a crush on Jay.  The meat of the first act is set during the trio’s road trip to a youth clay-court tournament, where Carlin is primed to make her first mark as a superstar. They all share the same shabby motel room; Jay sleeps on a rollaway while Cyn and Carlin take up the main bed. There’s a disarming ease to this constructed family, effectively conveyed by Peet through naturalistic dialogue, and the cracks quickly start showing. Cyn’s on the verge of losing her job due to these travel requirements, and as talk — and evidence — of her daughter’s talent keeps mounting, it consumes her. While at the tournament, a coach from Stanford named Salif (Tyee Tilghman) offers Carlin a spot at Academy, the gold standard for professional-bound tennis kids — a virtually guaranteed pathway to success, with an apartment rental thrown in too. Chris Whitaker  Salif plants seeds of doubt as well — drawing attention to the way Jay touches Carlin, clarifying it’s not “wrong” but implying it could get there. It’s the first example o
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