Pulsing with a manic energy, "Looking for the Pony," a 90-minute marathon of love and loss, threatens to rush out of the cozy space of the Off the Wall theater and into the streets of Carnegie.
Its quartet of actors might have chugged one of those suspect energy drinks because New York playwright Andrea Lepcio's script requires them to dash nonstop through a constantly changing story that ranges back and forth in time and place.
Despite its physical demands, Daina Michelle Griffith and Karen Baum as stepsisters Oisie and Lauren evoke movingly sympathetic moments of tenderness, determination and despair as Lauren rides the frustrating merry-go-round of the American medical system in search of treatment for her cancer.
Scenic designer Stephanie Mayer-Staley's versatile set symbolizes Lauren's difficult journey with its revolving platform marked by the points of the compass. She manages a social welfare agency while Oisie is a writer with a promising career.
In the modern "blended family" way, they met as children and formed a permanent bond that's tested when Lauren is diagnosed with breast cancer and Oisie makes the choice to support her at the risk of her career. Ms. Griffith's character narrates the story through her writing about the experience. Although Ms. Lepcio's approach makes sense early on, her play's dependence on wordy descriptions rather than dramatic action turns her play into a semi-documentary about medical care.
The problem is that this pony wants to go into too many directions rather than straight ahead as the playwright raises a variety of issues from celebrity physicians like Mehmet Oz to the medical insurance business. Theo Allyn and Cameron Knight handle a plethora of roles in this regard and, while Mr. Knight keeps his cool, Ms. Allyn's over-the-top tactics are distractions.
Director Robyne Parrish manages the stepsister performances with a deft hand, however, boosted by the depth of feeling expressed by Ms. Baum and Ms. Griffith. Sisterhood in the midst of crises -- and perhaps Lauren must face too many from sex abuse to the loss of a child -- is powerful, as Ms. Lepcio tells us.
Just duck when she throws the kitchen sink at you and sit back to appreciate the heartfelt emotions of two people who love each other dearly.
Bob Hoover: firstname.lastname@example.org.