We don’t just need to talk about Daniel (Henry Kelemen), the problem child who manages to thoroughly unsettle the audience within the first minute of Atlantic Theater Company’s Off Broadway drama Our New Girl. We also need to talk about the deeply dysfunctional parents and dubiously intentioned nanny in charge of raising him. The kid is doomed.
Annie (Lisa Joyce), a ruddy-faced woman fresh off the plane from rural Ireland, arrives at the sleekly appointed kitchen of the Robinsons’ London home. It’s the sort of kitchen — all modern appliances and hard, child-unfriendly corners — where you?d imagine an affluent, well-educated couple share their organic meals. Hazel and Richard Robinson seem to fit that bill, but under the surface they’re dangerously close to collapse. Hazel (Mary McCann) has joined the ranks of the many hyper-successful women who’ve left the workplace only to be disillusioned by motherhood. Caring for her young son — who’s either going through a difficult phase or is destined to become a mass murderer in a few years — breaks her down daily as she deals with a second pregnancy and tries to start an olive oil importing business from the kitchen table. Richard (CJ Wilson), a plastic surgeon, is hardly ever around to help; he travels to Third World countries to heal the sick (and to serve his own Messiah complex) yet can’t comprehend the problems in his own family. When Richard hires Annie, who isn’t as unassuming as she appears, things get incredibly ugly. And in such a beautiful home.
The script, by Dublin-born playwright Nancy Harris, contains some shocking violence — both verbal and physical — and director Gaye Taylor Upchurch deftly choreographs the scenes to make all of the blows land sharply. Throughout the two acts, your loyalties shift constantly among the four players until you’re left to wonder, ”Who’s the biggest sociopath?” Occasionally, Harris reaches too far for a memorable set-piece of histrionic familial rage, a la August Osage County or Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but amid the designer rubble lie razor-sharp insights about gender divisions in modern marriage. B+
(Tickets: atlantictheater.org or 866-811-4111)