What’s “natural” in William Inge’s family tragedy, set in Chicago, is the lack of affection between the characters. A troubled young man abandoned by his mother early in life returns to her, now living with a deadbeat boyfriend. Far more bleak than Inge’s earlier hits Picnic, Come Back, Little Sheba, and Bus Stop, this despairing 1963 work prefigures his suicide ten years later. Mockingly set at Christmas, the play depicts infidelity as inextricably tied to relationships, and incest as the ultimate expression of love. Desperation, loneliness, addiction, and violence are the essential components of the human condition. Adulthood means admitting you’ll never be the success you dreamed of. John Mossman’s staging for the Artistic Home is as uncompromising as the script. Kathy Scambiatterra gives a devastating performance as the mother: her doomed fight for a decent life is as heroic as Inge allows his characters to get. Through 5/1: Thu 7:30 PM, Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 7 PM. Artistic Home, 1420 W. Irving Park, 773-404-1100. $15-$20.