Three Ways Home, Stage Left Theatre. This is one of those well-intentioned plays that try so hard to do the right thing that they fail to do the one thing all plays must do: keep the attention of the audience. The story concerns a well-meaning yuppie woman volunteering at a social-service agency who becomes enmeshed in the lives of an angry but basically good-hearted welfare mother and her severely disturbed teenage son. At first the two women don't quite understand each other and there's lots of friction, but eventually--well, you know the story from here.
Playwright Casey Kurtti knows you've seen it a thousand times, so she trims back some of the more overgrown cliches--Dawn and Sharon don't become close friends, only good acquaintances--then tosses in a shocking unhappy ending.
I suppose I was meant to leave Three Ways Home thinking how great it would be if people tried to get together, but I spent most of my time walking to the el remembering Cynthia Jackson's wonderfully edgy performance as the welfare mother, wishing the play had been worthy of her obvious talents. --Jack Helbig