STRANGE LIGHT, Bailiwick Repertory. It’s not a whodunit, but a whatdunit–what made young Bayley’s long-deceased father such a grouch? The major clue is a booklet published by General Electric, which employed him in developing its fluorescent light fixtures, and the crime scene is the 1939 World’s Fair. Bayley is desperate to learn this family secret before her senile mother retreats into darkness along with the details, but her obsession endangers her career as a divorce lawyer and her relationship with her lover, Shue.

Light becomes a metaphor for nearly everything, supporting a staggering number of themes: connecting with one’s parents before they die, bigotry within the American scientific community, the injury suppressed anger causes, and the necessity of Getting on With Your Life. Strange Light also gives us girlish sweet nothings, slide projections, candlelit tableaux, and interesting facts about natural and artificial illumination.

All this material forces author Cynthia Cooper to take more than two hours to arrive at the answer we guess much sooner. But at the preview performance I attended, Robin Hughes’s direction held most of the literary sprawl in check, and the actors–Christine Gatto as the waiflike Bayley, Rosemary Rock as the oracular mother, and Tracy Repep, injecting a welcome note of humor as the practical Shue–kept us emotionally invested in the quest.