THE ROPE, Close Call Theatre, at Cafe Voltaire. Abraham Bentley is an embittered patriarch, reviling his daughter Annie with Old Testament oratory and his son-in-law Pat with anti-Catholic epithets and cruelly rejecting his granddaughter. The only light still burning in his senile brain is the memory of Luke, his son by his lowborn second wife. Luke absconded with the household cash some four years earlier, at which time his father strung up a noose in the barn and bade his offspring hang himself. The rope remains, waiting for Luke’s return–and Pat and Annie wait for the statute of limitations to expire on the prodigal son, to whom the bag of gold rumored to be hidden somewhere on the heavily mortgaged farm has been willed.

Eugene O’Neill treated the cruel and greedy characters in his 1919 one-act The Rope more sympathetically five years later in Desire Under the Elms. Close Call Theatre likewise takes a compassionate look at this accursed family, presenting their sins as no more evil than those to which any imperfect mortals may be driven by pride and willfulness. Anthony Pinizzotto directs a hardworking cast displaying fine Irish accents (though Patrick Clayberg’s Luke tends to lose his from time to time) and offering sensitively timed interpretations, especially in the many long expository passages. Most commendable, however, are Pinizzotto’s intricate ensemble arrangements: several actions occurring simultaneously keep the stage picture vibrant–a rarity in these television-oriented times.