When The Walls Have Ears, Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company. Though David Hauptschein's world-premiere family drama begins domestically enough, with a mother-daughter conversation about Thanksgiving and bowel movements, it soon dives into a cesspool of drug running and brutality. The first half enthralls like a TV crime drama: some sketchy interactions between the black-sheep son (Wesley Walker) and the daughter's boyfriend (Don Smith) set off a chain of events that includes a mysterious suicide, theft of the family van, rape accusations, and abduction. It's all extreme but credible enough in a "When Bad Things Happen to Good Families" kind of way.
Unfortunately, Hauptschein's second-act resolution doesn't remotely fly--when the characters try to explain their improbable actions, it's clearly a writer's quick fix. The central tragedy defies common sense, and the parents resign themselves to the situation way too easily (save for a few chest pains and extra cocktails). Utterly regrettable, because the characters are meaty, complex, and beautifully delivered by the ensemble--especially Marssie Mencotti as the rum-and-Coke quaffing mother (the earthiest everymom since Roseanne) and Richard Cotovsky as the father, who "don't have all four wheels on the road." Director Julio Maria Martino clearly feels the pulse of the action, but even his able guidance can't disguise the play's shortcuts and shortcomings.