THREE WAYS HOME, Stage Actors Ensemble, at the Performance Loft, Second Unitarian Church of Chicago. Volunteer caseworker Sharon has been assigned to investigate charges of child abuse against welfare mom Dawn. But both have good reason to mistrust the New York social-services system. Dramatically, of course, the two women must be initially hostile, so that gradually they can come to tolerate, respect, trust, and even love each other. But all their sisterly bonding can't save Dawn's troubled teenage son, Frankie, whose only escape from despair comes from comic-book superheroes.
Told chiefly in soliloquies, with people interacting in only a few scenes, Casey Kurtti's exploration of inner-city domestic problems sometimes sacrifices motivation to complicate the plot. But the characters in Three Ways Home nevertheless display some refreshing departures from stereotypes. Despite a good-for-nothing boyfriend, Dawn genuinely strives to make a decent life for her children. Young Frankie may risk his life in illegal activities, but it's to provide for his siblings. And Sharon is an independent ex-teen rebel puzzled by her own altruistic impulses. Andrea J. Dymond directs a hardworking Stage Actors Ensemble cast--Nadirah Bost, Francois Battiste, and Christa S. Trinler--who give their lines a vigor and conviction that more than redeem the play's undeniably generic point.
--Mary Shen Barnidge