Repeatedly staggering up or lurching down the set’s two flights of stairs while trying to pull a vicious dignity about herself like a wrapper, Parsons’s drugged-out matriarch is alternately crude and ladylike, vituperative and comatose. Demanding the men don suit coats as she commands a family dinner, spitting out true grit and the breezy antagonism she calls “truth telling,” she nonetheless communicates a wistful nostalgia and the childhood pain that turned Violet tough. That this exemplary production of a Pulitzer-winning play — albeit a long one devoid of singing and dancing — should have to cancel the second week of its Boston engagement for lack of ticket sales does not bode well for the continuance of downtown theater with any kind of bite. It’s enough to give you the Plains.
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