How did young people come of age before the car (or bus) was invented? You'd think from all the works of art that feature those vehicles as the central transporting device — from Jack Kerouac's On the Road to Thelma and Louise — that wheels of some sort are mandatory equipment for emotionally transitioning into adulthood.
That is once again the case in Ride by Eric Lane, now playing at None Too Fragile Theater in Akron. A capable cast of three females under the direction of Sean Derry gives the material a solid presentation. But there are a few too many glitches in the occasionally perceptive script to make this a two-hour joy ride.
Molly and Carrie have recently graduated from high school, and are working at a roadside vegetable stand, where Carrie is ogling Molly's brand new car. No, Molly can't afford it because they're getting a premium price for kale. It seems she found out her dad is having an affair and the plush vehicle is a four-wheel inducement for Molly to keep her trap shut.
As it happens, Carrie has her own daddy issue as her father has recently died at far too young an age. She is devastated by that loss, as is her younger sister, pre-teen Sam. Meanwhile, the unseen mom of the two sisters is the opposite of a helicopter parent, leaving the raising of Sam to Carrie.
It isn't long before the three decide on a road trip, instigated by Molly, to find and confront her dad's mistress. While the exact path of this journey isn't TripTik precise, it's clear that all three are using the jaunt to vent their frustrations and anxieties.
When the three gal pals are talking amongst themselves, playwright Lane shows a deft hand with dialogue that feels character-specific and believable. And if he had concentrated on those conversations, things might have turned out better.
Unfortunately, Lane often has Carrie taking an off-ramp into solo interior monologues that are either sentimental blatherings or confusing duds, such as some imaginary cell phone calls.
And in an almost fatal gambit, he has Carrie comparing her life to that of Anne Frank. It's a sure sign of desperation when a playwright attempts to borrow dramatic heft from that particular Holocaust victim. Indeed, when Carrie says, "Who's not looking for an annex to hide in?" one wants to scream that teenage angst is not the same as being hunted, captured and killed by Nazis.
Although there are many times, especially during the first act, when the actors mumble inaudibly, they mostly acquit themselves well. As Carrie, Alanna Romansky starts the play off in fine fashion as she drools amusingly over her friend's spiffy new wheels. And Romansky knows how to build a character through a galaxy of small gestures and sighs, culminating in a true portrait of a young woman struggling with new, grown-up issues.
As Molly, Rachel Roberts has much less to work with in the script, and as a result has a more difficult time fixing on an appropriate attitude. It is never made entirely clear what in particular vexes Molly about her dad's cheating, since we never see Molly interact with either of her parents. With that information tucked away off stage, we're not sure what's at stake for Molly.
The playwright gives most of the funny lines to Sam, and Ireland Derry (the director's daughter) handles them like a pro. Young Derry has the flat, affectless delivery common to tweens, and she nails a number of amusing blasts. Reflecting on the trip ahead, she advises that, "We'll get there faster if we all wear adult diapers."
Ride seems like a theatrical version of a painter's initial sketch, without all the colors and shading it needs. Even with some forced emotion at the end, this script doesn't earn the tears that are evidently called for in the stage directions.
Ride: Through August 30 at None Too Fragile Theater, 1835 Merriman Road, Akron, (enter through Pub Bricco), 330-671-4563.