'Sally's Gone'; Family melodrama

Set in a gleaming white, state-of-the-art kitchen, ''Sally's Gone, She Left Her Name'' (at the American Stage Festival in Milford, N.H.) tackles the subject of an American family losing its core.

The core is the ethereal mother (Katharine Houghton), whose slow recovery from an auto accident has left her emotionally fragile. It has also left the family walking on eggshells - around and away from her. The level-headed, nurturing daughter (Caris Corfman) plans to go to art school in New York to get away, while the son (Eric Schiff) retreats to imagination and lacrosse, and the father (William Andrews) to a brief affair.

The bones of this new play by Russell Davis are strong. Davis writes well about how a family communicates when it can't say what it needs to, and how people adjust to mental illness in their midst. Having the son wolf down his food in front of the open refrigerator shows that Davis has an eye for believable quirks.

But the playwright has taken a basically workable idea and gunked it up. The comic relief is laid on with an ice cream scoop (an object the father is flummoxed over not being able to find in his modern kitchen). There are car grease fights, an obligatory adolescent discussion about breasts, murky dream analysis, and Oedipal complexes. The dialogue aims high and falls flat. Katharine Houghton is too young to play the mother of teen-agers and too limp; the actress, like her character, has difficulty holding up the center.

Tony Giordano has directed swiftly, however, and the acting, particularly by Schiff and Corfman, is fine. With a little more fine-tuning, the play might do more than go and leave its name.

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