Vintage Red and the Dust of the Road, Visions & Voices Theatre Company, at Strawdog Theatre Company. It’s hard to decide what to praise first in this outstanding production of Robert Koon’s thoughtful new play. Though the winery setting suggests a number of facile metaphors, Koon uses them sparingly, creating characters instead of archetypes. After five years of self-imposed exile, Ted returns to California for his father’s funeral to confront his ex-wife, brother, and sister. Director Anna C. Bahow keeps Ted poised literally between past and present, on a stair that marks the boundary between the winery and his Chicago apartment, between the old loves he’s let down and the new one he’s currently disappointing. When Ted lectures his young lover on the wisdom of age–“You’re 24! Do you know how much distance there is between me and 24?”–it’s clear that in emotional terms there’s hardly any distance at all.

In Kelly Van Kirk’s exceptionally graceful and restrained performance, Ted is the classic modern man who mistakes disconnection for freedom, then can’t account for his regrets. The other players do equally well, with particular mention due Elizabeth Rich for her subtle portrayal of Ted’s sister, whose relentless rage might easily have made for a one-note performance. Similarly a play that could have been just another melodrama about men and their fathers or about lost love layers detail upon ambiguity upon truth to produce something wholly original.