Teenage bullying, cyber and otherwise, takes its toll in ‘Linger’

By LIZ KEILL

UNION, NJ – Craig Garcia’s stirring, heartbreaking play “Linger” opened at Premiere Stages this past weekend.

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The playwright struck a nerve with this intense family drama, the incalculable damage done in this day of cyber bullying and how lives are destroyed.

James and Maryanne are an outwardly successful couple. She’s a pediatric doctor and he is a lawyer, with their teenage son, Mike and pre-teen daughter, Summer. James is trying to convince his wife that they need a family vacation before their son goes off to college. Preferably, he envisions a two-week trip to London and Paris.  She is resisting because of work pressures and pending expenses.

But soon those idle plans are turned upside down. As they’re preparing to leave for a wedding, a police car arrives and Mike is taken to the station.  It seems another teenager, Bobby, has been brutally beaten and sexually assaulted at a local party the night before.  We learn that Mike had a role in the assault.

What matters here are the secrets that everyone is keeping from everyone else and how the truth is twisted and turned.  The cast delivers in spades, with searing emotions and accusations.

Danielle Skaastad has the pivotal role of Maryanne, the family doctor who has treated Bobby since his childhood. She treats him after the attack and makes the mistake of telling her husband about the boy’s abuse. James, in a stirring performance by Michael Frederic, tells another lawyer and is convinced their son, Mike, had nothing to do with the attack.

Robby Haltwanger plays Mike, a typical teenager in the early scenes, but gradually realizing the harm he has done to everyone around him. His sister, Summer, is played by Sarah Kathryn Makl. She is susceptible to all the cyber bullying that the incident has aroused and how those accusations never go away.

Will Ehren is Bobby, who has suffered both physically and mentally. His father, Gerald, (Jonathan C. Kaplan) confronts Maryanne and blames her for sharing confidential information. In the process, her career is ruined and Gerald and his son decide to leave town, the business he has built, and start over elsewhere.

This taut drama has been directed by John Wooten, with costumes by Stefanie Genda and lighting by Brant Thomas Murray.  Harry Feiner’s set design cleverly encompasses a spacious living room with stone fireplace, which turns to a wall for scenes in the doctor’s office. The smoothly functioning space keeps the action flowing.

“Linger” is the 20018 Premier Play Festival Winner, which received 572 submissions. It will linger in your memory because of its bold, raw indictment of the way families are torn apart. The play runs through July 29.  For tickets, call 908-737-4077 or visit premierestagesatkean.com.