In the Blood
Living -- or, rather, barely surviving -- beneath an overpass with her five children ("my treasures," she calls them), Hester (the extraordinary Roslyn Ruff) is a strong, giving mother struggling against the stigma of homelessness. A touching, original take on Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter -- which also inspired Parks's Fucking A, set to premiere Off-Broadway this season at the Public Theater -- In the Blood shows a family that hasn't so much fallen between the cracks as been completely abandoned.
The key to the success of this electrifying production -- aside from nearly flawless performances in dual roles by Peter DeLaurier, Robert Beatty, Larry Grant Malvern, Mary Elizabeth Scallen, and Cathy Simpson -- is director Abigail Adams's decision to present the story from Hester's point of view, a strategy that allows for the many levels of Parks's tale to be fully realized. A mix of theatrical metaphors and gritty realism, sharply realized in Lewis Folden's grimy but snugly domestic set, the production introduces us to a family that is isolated from society. Hester is used and abused by a hypocritical reverend, a selfish care worker, a capitalistic hooker, her deadbeat father, and a well-meaning but misguided street corner doctor. She is initially seen by the audience as a mysterious outsider; but, with Adams highlighting the play's archetypal characters and situations, the divide between us begins to blur.