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'Lost Girls'' Story Is An Uninspiring Take On Alcoholism, Broken Homes & Young Romance

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I try not to bring too many expectations to any new show, but I'm human and I fail. If I've seen a play that I really enjoyed by a particular company or playwright, I can't help hoping their next work will be as good or even better. John Pollono's Small Engine Repair was a big hit for Rogue Machine a short while ago, enjoying a long run, garnering awards, and it's about to start in a new incarnation Off-Broadway. His new play, Lost Girls, is quite different than Repair, and I admire that Pollono hasn't done the easy thing and simply return to the same well. It receives a fine production at Rogue Machine with excellent acting across the board, but unfortunately the play itself didn't work for me, seeming like a talented writer spinning his wheels for ninety minutes, a bit lost itself.

Single mother Maggie (Jennifer Pollono) is trying to leave for work one morning when she discovers her car is missing. Assuming that the vehicle is stolen, she calls the police, which brings her cop ex-husband Lou (Joshua Bitton) by with his new wife Penny (Kirsten Kollender) in tow. Maggie and Lou squabble for a while until they come to the conclusion that the car wasn't stolen, just taken by their teenage daughter, who may have run away or might be in danger. Elsewhere, a couple of teens (Anna Theoni DiGiovanni and Jonathan Lipnicki) hiding out in a motel room for the night begin to become closer as a storm outside rages around them.

Jennifer Pollono delivers a powerful performance as Maggie, a woman who's maybe a little too much in touch with her anger, and Bitton is sympathetic and convincing as Lou, a good guy with a less than admirable past. Kollender is quite good as Penny, bringing a calming presence not only to the character but also to the play. Peggy Dunne (in a role shared by Ann Bronston) brings a cranky hilarity to her performance as Maggie's mother, Linda. Finally, DiGiovanni and Lipnicki are superb as the teens, perfectly creating the awkwardness and fresh joy of young love discovered.

Director John Perrin Flynn gets great work from his entire cast, and David Mauer's set design uses the small space in ingenious ways, flipping from a small home to a motel room and back in moments. John Pollono's play certainly has good moments and funny lines--he's too good of a writer for quality not to regularly shine through--but the story overall feels uninspired. I've seen any number of plays about alcoholism and broken relationships and the beginning of young romance (albeit perhaps not all themes together in one show), and this one regrettably doesn't seem to have anything new to say on any of those subjects. Also, there is a reveal at the end of the show that is crucial, and while I felt it was clear and effective, I spoke to several intelligent people after the performance who had missed or misunderstood the reveal completely, so maybe some clarification there might be helpful.

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"Lost Girls" plays at Rogue Machine through November 4. Tickets are available online.