There is something more than a little reminiscent of Sam Shepherd in William Ivory’s first stage play. The hallmarks are all there: a returning son; sibling rivalry; a violent patriarch nearing his end; family in chaos. The setting translates well too: dreary small-town America becomes the suburban working-class Midlands.
The tension is slowly ratcheted up throughout the first half with an omnipresent ticking clock and spot-lit freezes ominously foreboding what is to come. The play is beautifully staged as well: all angles and corners, the skewed set is wonderfully disconcerting.
Ivory touches on a number of interesting themes, questioning how much like our parents we are, and what we owe them. The characters – particularly male – are well-drawn, and the actors lay bare all their insecurities and foibles. David (Tom Dantay) is a particularly fascinating study of the son who never left home, who tries so desperately to recreate his idealized Christmases past.
The Retirement of Tom Stevens is a brutally honest, often funny, and always unsettling examination of family relations and filial duty.