Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance” Presented by Theatre 9/12

If you are familiar with Theatre 9/12, you expect finely honed acting in their productions, all directed by Charles Waxberg. Your expectations will be fulfilled in this their newest offering, played in the round, with audience seated on the same level as the stage and in most cases within just a few feet of the actors. You are so close you almost feel like invisible houseguests eavesdropping on the very private lives of the well-to-do couple around which the action centers.

And oh the angst, or is it anomie? Agnes is adrift, and dutiful Tobias is ineffectual. Liquor, the elixir that makes life possible, is plentiful. In comes Claire the “recovering” alcoholic sister who lives with them and whom Agnes seems to despise. Then, oh, good lord, word is received that daughter Julia’s fourth marriage has just crashed and she’s on her way home. It’s just another of Albee’s happy families.

And these problem relationships are only the beginning? Suddenly, good friends Harry and Julia show up with suitcases. Some noxious but unnamed horror brings them here, and, evidently, they plan to stay, much to the astonishment of the dumbfounded Agnes and Tobias. This calls for another drink though that does nothing to stop the flow of newts and toads pouring from many mouths as this privileged family fails to find its balance.

All the actors are in good form, as I said, but a few deserve special mention. Terry Edward Moore’s Tobias is a man with no balls. He’s excellent at mixing drinks but powerless to make decisions. Moore creates a somewhat pathetic but affable guy. Then near the end of the play, all the energies he’s kept so carefully under control explode. It’s fascinating to watch this transformation. Therese Diekhans (Agnes) and Mary Murfin Bayley (Claire) like two fencers slash and swipe at each other with malice. Agnes does it with controlled fury, Claire with no holds barred. Again, it’s a delight to watch the two spar, ugly though their encounters are.

Another star is Paul O’Connell’s set that captures the comfort and style of the privileged. This is not the easiest space in which to produce a play. Yet he makes it work very well for this volatile production.

Through Feb. 14 at 609 8th Ave. and James St., pay what you can, www.theatre912.com.

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