Weston (the outstanding Bruce McKenzie), the more-or-less - mostly less - head of the family, is a drunk who is seriously in debt to seriously dangerous people. His ditzy wife (Lorri Holt), his son (the fearless Nate Miller), and his daughter (the brilliant Keira Keeley) all blunder through their lives, without a realistic plan or a shred of self-knowledge.
The plot is complicated, undeveloped, and implausible: The plot is not the point. The sacrificial lamb in a playpen in the kitchen being nursed back to health (good luck with that), and baths and laundry and breakfast, will not cure what ails these people.
Like so many American plays, Curse is about real estate, with all the implications that extend beyond the security of a house to a sense of belonging, a place in the world.
Consider this sampling: Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, in which the summer house that isn't really a home for Mary is the pivot of the plot; in Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, the crux of the drama is buying a house, as it is in Bruce Norris' follow-up play, Clybourne Park; in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire, Belle Reve has been lost through generations of "epic fornications"; in August Wilson's final play, Radio Golf, the old neighborhood is going to be torn down, slated for "minority redevelopment," and in David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, real estate has become merely a swindle.
Given the current state of the mortgage/real estate market, the absurdities of Shepard's Curse of the Starving Class look almost realistic, a duality captured in the fine and weird set designed by Matt Saunders.
Follow Toby Zinman on Twitter at #philastage. Read her reviews at www.philly.com/phillystage.