A LOSS OF ROSES, Fourth Wall Productions, at Wilbur Wright College. Revived 40 years after it flopped on Broadway, this little-known late offering by William Inge includes postproduction revisions. Fourth Wall’s staging gives the play a fair shot at a second chance.
Compared to Inge’s more sentimental efforts (Bus Stop, Picnic, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, and Come Back, Little Sheba), this play deals harshly with its characters. Set in Kansas during the Depression, A Loss of Roses focuses on the “depression of the heart” and “drought of the soul.” Kenny, a comely young man with an unresolved Oedipus complex, longs for love from his mother, who’s cherished no one since the death of her heroic husband. When Kenny finds affection with Lila, an emotionally insecure tent-show actress who arrives on their doorstep, everything and nothing changes. The women remain stuck in their sorrows, but Kenny finds the force to free himself, whether for love or from love isn’t certain. (Since Inge’s mentor was Tennessee Williams, who was also gay, it’s unsurprising that Kenny recalls Tom Wingfield and Lila, Blanche DuBois.)
Patricia Moran’s period staging honors the play’s multiple heartaches. Mike McNamara gives Kenny contagious yearning, though his love scenes with Niki Sarich’s wonderful Lila seldom smolder. Ellen Morley plays the righteous, tough-loving mother with appropriately religious devotion. –Lawrence Bommer