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Strong acting, poor casting seen in 'This Day and Age'

RATING: * * ½

WHERE: Prospect Theater Project, 520 Scenic Drive, Modesto

WHEN: Through Aug. 2. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.

RUNNING TIME: Two hours, including an intermission

TICKETS: $15

INFORMATION: 549-9341 or www.prospecttheaterproject.org

"This Day and Age," at the Prospect Theater Project in Modesto, centers on a feisty 60-something widow with adult children who want to return to the nest.

Marjorie has dreams of selling her Connecticut home and moving to New Zealand, but the kids want to move their families in with her and put her to work as a baby sitter.

Written by Nagle Jackson, the 1995 comedy was a hit at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It's a good fit for theater because the lead character is the age of the main theater audience. Many families can relate to the topic.

But director Charlotte Ferreira's production isn't as effective as it could be because of poor casting. Everyone in the cast, from the mother to the kids, looks as if they're in their 40s. Charlene West, who plays the mother, looks far too young, despite her gray wig, and Jennifer York and Scott Mitchell, who play the children, appear too old.

Certain lines seem ridiculous, such as when someone says the gray-haired Mitchell is too young to have a midlife crisis. This is distracting and makes it hard to get involved with the story.

For the most part, though, the acting is strong. West is humorously acerbic and blunt as the family matriarch. She has no problem telling her family that she never felt particularly maternal and that she enjoys being on her own. In response to her daughter who asks, "Who ever heard of anyone wanting to live alone?" Marjorie cheerfully responds, "Anyone who's tried it."

York is appropriately bossy as super-achiever daughter Ann and Mitchell is mousy as weak son Tony. Scott Harless is cynical and devious as Ann's straying husband, Brian, while Melissa Harris is upbeat and sweet as Tony's ex-dancer wife, Joy.

Jerry Osborn has a brief but memorable role as the ghost of Jack, the fabulously successful patriarch. He's funny and honest, letting us know that he might not have been the great self-made man he appeared to be.

Jack Souza's outdoor patio set suggests comfort and wealth, making it a good stand-in for Marjorie's back yard.

The play's dialogue is true-to-life, perhaps a bit too realistic. At times, the family's constant bickering can get wearing. Some may wonder why they need to see a play about family fights when they can just watch their own at home.

Bee arts writer Lisa Millegan can be reached at lmillegan@modbee.com or 578-2313.

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