Family dramas featuring multiple generations of characters are not rare in the theater world. “A Child’s Guide to Innocence,” the first drama presented by the Snowlion Repertory Company and a New England premiere, offers some interesting and moving variations in the category and is well worth a visit to its brief run in Portland.

Vincent Sessa’s 2005 play follows three generations of women from an Italian-American family who are personally affected by events on the world stage.

We visit the family at three points in time, spread over 50 years, and get to know a bit about how time changes some things and not others in family relationships. The art of coping is very much at the fore.

Sessa tries to get at the sense, as the characters note, of “something happening, not here” by weaving together realistic dialogue with poetic flourishes that take us through scientific, religious and philosophical byways on the way to some sort of greater understanding.

The fact that the incidental music for the production, directed by Al D’Andrea, ranges from Glenn Miller to Henryk Gorecki gives some indication of the variety of levels tapped by the play.

“A Child’s Guide” opens in 1944 as sisters Francesca, played by Laura Houck, Catherine, played by Elizabeth Lardie, and Marion, played by Kathryn Perry, await news of their brother who has gone missing while in the military overseas.

The news will not be good, though we don’t learn the full details until later scenes taking place 30 and 50 years after the fact.

Houck’s character is the constant, relating first to her sisters, then her daughters and finally her granddaughters.

She’s a sort of lost soul who is given to trance-like reveries that the others try to understand. The veteran actress did a fine job at Saturday’s performance in getting at the struggles of a woman haunted by the past, though the final scene (not her fault) approached the realm of too much.

In multiple roles, Lardie and Perry get to represent changing cultural perspectives on the fundamental questions the play wishes to pose. Both actresses handled a ton of dialogue with style and made the bonds of family seem real throughout.

Some may find a tear in their eye after seeing this touching play that seeks to find the good in people.

 

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.