Back at Signature Theatre in a starry but unpersuasive revival, Horton Foote’s laureled family drama set in 1950 Houston, The Young Man From Atlanta, leaves you wanting – and wondering. This won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize? Yes, it did. Tracing the fallout of an apparent suicide, secrets and lies, and belt-tightening times, the saga clunks along more than it clicks. Foote’s folksy plainspokenness tolls, and the quietly eloquent grace notes that tug you in are scarce. That’s not the fault of director Michael Wilson, who knows his way around this author, but this stiff and at times unwieldy staging is.
Aidan Quinn and Kristine Nielsen star as Will Kidder, a produce business executive, and his wife Lily Dale, spouses accustomed to always having “the best.” But six months after the mysterious death of their only child, Bill, the grieving couple is rocked again. Ted (Devon Abner), Will’s boss, replaces him with the younger Tom (Dan Bittner). Money and marital strife ensue when Will learns that Lily, against his wishes, has become a financial benefactor of the title character, who, in a smart choice, is never seen. After all, the Kidders have worked hard to deny the existence of the man who was more than Bill’s friend. Amid confessions and accusations out of left field, the play finally gets traction as Will and Lily Dale must make concessions and confront hard realities. Still, one grows weary waiting for the late-blooming “Young Man” to grow up into something satisfying.