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Cranes, by Dmitry Lipkin, concerns russian-Jewish immigrants in New Orleans during a Mardi Gras party given by Tanya Savinich for, among others, her friendly rival Sophia Belkin, turned bitter foe. Sophia, a talented pianist, gave it up to become a fully American wife to Edik Belkin, a sozzled failure, and mother to Alex, a promising young pianist en route to Juilliard. Tanya, conversely, has jettisoned her nobler aspirations, ruthlessly acquiring the lavish house where the action is laid and a husband, Dima, already rich and potentially famous. Only her sweet, reclusive 16-year-old bookworm daughter is a thorn in Tanya's arriviste side.

The parallel rivalries of the elders, the bungled sex of the young'uns, we have seen it all before with more verbal bite, greater kinetic invention. Even the onstage oral intercourse was handled more believably in Killer Joe. Under Scott Elliott's nervy direction, not all performances thrive equally. Mira Furlan is almost too powerful as Tanya, Laura Esterman a bit washed-out as Sophia. The husbands, David Margulies and Josh Mostel, are on target; the kids, Amir Sajadi and Amy Whitehouse, are adequate. The play, despite Derek McLane's phenomenal set, is not.


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