Pirate Bones, Lincoln Square Theatre, at Berry Memorial United Methodist Church. Kristin M. Schramm has overwritten every scene of this world premiere. Throw in a tendency to telegraph stiff transitions, a fairly transparent mystery plot, and some pretty implausible twists, and you’ve got a recipe for what Clint Eastwood might call “a good, long night of theater.”
Pirate Bones tells the story of the fragile, unlikely friendship between next-door neighbors Edina Melkampf, the young daughter of immigrant parents, and Oda Mae Davis, a mildly retarded 21-year-old black woman of approximately the same mental age. When Edina’s mother sights the alcoholic, abusive husband she’s been running from for years, she packs her bag and leaves Edina with the Davises. While she’s away, dad inevitably returns, and a secret is buried in the cellar. There’s a police investigation years after the fact, and some Lifetime-style emotional catharsis, but the crux of the play remains Oda Mae and Edina’s shared fantasy world, one part dream wedding and one part Peter Pan idyll.
The cast is uneven, but Paul Joseph, Gwendolyn Carter, and Foster Williams Jr. all do good work, especially the latter two as Oda Mae’s devoted parents. Jennifer H. Conrad is still better as Oda Mae herself, the only truly believable character; her last scene is a genuine tearjerker. Betsey Cassell’s direction is passable but could be more aggressive–the pacing needs tightening, and both script and staging could better focus on the sad little girls at this drama’s center.