As fine a piece of playwriting as you'll find at this year's New York International Fringe Festival, David Ozanich's "Lightning Field" also benefits from a rich, rangy production that shows the play's tensile strength to full advantage.
A nervy, tender and ultimately anguished examination of the damage we inflict on those we love, Mr. Ozanich's play takes its title from the sculptor Walter De Maria's vast installation, a mile-wide grid of bare poles in the New Mexico desert. This serves as the unlikely vacation spot for a young Manhattanite couple, Sam (H Clark) and Andy (Cory Grant), who bring with them one divorced parent apiece.
The sides are drawn up early: the urbane adman Andy and his happily unfettered mom (Bekka Lindstrom) versus the grizzled veterinarian Sam and his gruff, regretful dad (Ron McClary). But these dividing lines twist and tangle into funny, painful contortions. Sam wants to marry Andy and move to Denver, while their parents warily flirt and reminisce. Even with the help of some alcohol and a rainy, romantic night, neither coupling proves smooth, for reasons that feel both unexpected and terribly inevitable.
Mr. Ozanich has written a high-impact 90-minute one-act that stands on its own, particularly as shaped by the director, Jared Coseglia, and played with exceptional wit and feeling by the appealing cast. Still, "The Lightning Field" cries out for a full-length treatment. Its characters might breathe more between soul-baring revelations, and an audience could use time to fully absorb its shocks. A brilliant flash, the play could yet be a searing illumination. As Andy puts it, "It's not about the lightning but about the light."