Jenna Zark's latest play suffers from a kind of identity crisis. It's never sure if it wants to be an off-kilter comedy or a tense drama. There are moments in both halves that work, but the show as a whole suffers from an identity crisis.
At its heart, If You Don't Weaken is about grief and recovery. Amy has not just lost her beloved grandfather, but her way. She is in her late 20s, and unsure where life is taking her. She hones in on her Jewish heritage, and decides to say the Kaddish, a traditional mourning prayer, for Sidney.
Amy finds a decaying, dying synagogue to say the prayer, but has trouble finding a minion of 10 people to say the prayer. She recruits a pair of friends to help. Caron is a pole dancer with an MBA. George is Amy's business partner at Flickers, a video store struggling in the Netflix world. Caron doesn't want to help. George is willing, but only if Amy lets him add a porn section to the store.
Part of the trouble is that Amy and Caron are only partially sketched out as characters. We get a sense of the troubles behind them, but they can never be fully grasped. That makes their continual arguments circular. What makes them friends is so unclear that it is hard to figure out why they stay together.
Rebecca Gebhart and Tara Lucchino struggle in these roles, which makes the scenes they share drag on and on. It's better when Derek "Duck" Washington as George is onstage. The character just wants to do the right things for his friend and his store, and is eventually thrilled to explore his Jewish heritage.
Charles Numrich's Sidney saves part of the show. We see him as a specter, either in the last, confused days of his life or earlier as a strong and warm presence in Amy's life. There is similar energy from Muriel Bonertz and Dann Peterson, who play two older members of the synagogue.
IF YOU GO:
If You Don't Weaken 7:30 p.m. April 2, 4, 6, 9, 10-11; 3 p.m. April 12 Nimbus Theatre 1517 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis $15-$18 For tickets and more information, call 612.816.8479 or visit online.