Larry Pine and Judith Ivey in The Women of Lockerbie(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
Larry Pine and Judith Ivey in The Women of Lockerbie
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
The Women of Lockerbie, Deborah Brevoort's new play about the aftermath of the Pan Am Flight 103 crash, begins and ends on set designer Derek McLane's stair-step rendering of rolling Scottish hills. Almost astonishingly realistic mists roll by as Bill Livingston (Larry Pine) searches for his wife Madeline (Judith Ivey), who wanders the hills looking for the remains of her dead son even though she's not likely to find anything.

Brevoort's timely drama takes place seven years after the horrible 1988 event in which an American airliner was destroyed over Lockerbie, Scotland, apparently by a terrorist bomb. Nearly 300 people were killed. The Livingstons have come to Lockerbie for a memorial service that is being held for the families of the dead. He hopes that his wife, who has mourned ceaselessly for the past seven years, will finally find closure by visiting the place where their son died; she hopes to discover some remnant of her son, whose body was never recovered from the debris.

Like a Greek chorus, three women of Lockerbie -- played to perfection by Jenny Sterlin, Angela Piertropinto, and Kristen Sieh -- flit about the Livingstons. They offer a mystical brand of grief counseling, telling stories about that awful day when the plane crashed quite literally in their backyards and sharing wise words on how to heal the wounds of the past. But, as we later learn, they have their own wounds that are not yet healed.

Brevoort has a good premise for her play. Years after suffering their initial loss, the Livingstons are in two very different places: Bill has (he thinks) moved on and longs for his wife to do the same, while Madeline is trapped in her grief. But the audience, having been thrust into this uncomfortable situation, sees little more than a callous father and a mother whose hysteria so long after her son's death is hard to believe. Another play currently running in New York, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, paints a similar picture of longstanding parental anguish, but author Peter Nichols creates complex characters and a textured view of a suffering couple's daily life, while Brevoort has not succeeded in doing so. And the usually excellent Pine and Ivey often go over the top in displaying the characters' emotions.

If the 90-minute long Women of Lockerbie is ultimately disappointing as a dramatic whole, it certainly has its moments. Though rather surreal, the three Scottish women -- later joined by a fourth, played by Kathleen Doyle -- are always intriguing, notably when they make it their mission to stop American official George Jones (Adam Trese) from having the clothes of the dead incinerated. Pine has a beautiful scene with Trese wherein both men finally show some emotion as they look at old photos of the Livingstons' son. Much later, one of the Lockerbie women has a breakdown and her angered speech resonates strongly. And the Livingstons' cathartic moment, in which Bill finally starts to grieve and Madeline at last begins to heal, is well acted and nicely staged by director Scott Elliott.