The Chemistry of Change is Marlane Meyer’s best play to date, though that isn’t saying a lot. The idea of a much-married woman, Lee, bullying a family of misfits into being her slaves until she meets Smokey, a carny who runs a hell ride and may be the devil himself, is not without interest. When she brings him home, the lord of misrule prods the layabouts into action that may not be better but is at least livelier.
Miss Meyer manages some pleasantly prickly dialogue, and some of her flights of fancy actually have modest wings. But her poetic-symbolic concept needs a grand imagination in perfect focus, without her occasional diffuseness and intermittent wobble. The cast is good enough, although Carlin Glynn (Lee) wants a firmer control of her lines, and Larry Pine (Smokey) is an attitudinizing actor relying overmuch on a charm he doesn’t quite have. But Jodi Thelen does well by an ugly duckling who turns, if not into a swan, into something as white, a nurse; and Lisa Peterson’s direction, though a shade too tame, is not lacking in spirit.