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The Boston Globe

Theater & art

Stage Review

Dan Hunter’s ‘Legally Dead’ is alive and well

‘Where there’s a will, there’s way,” as the saying goes. So the Lincoln family just needs to find the will. In Dan Hunter’s new play, now up at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, it’s Christmas Eve, and the Lincolns — mom Marsha and adult children Rebecca, Annie, and Tommy — are home for the holidays at mom’s place on the Gulf Coast of Florida. What’s more, some of the kids are looking to give themselves a Christmas present by selling the family’s Cadillac dealership back in their native Peoria, Ill. The hitch is, they can’t unload it without the OK from their dear departed dad, who’s not dead, just departed — he’s been missing for five years. They need to have him declared legally dead so they can inherit. But . . . where is that will?

Hunter, a former managing director of Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, hails from Iowa, and his previous efforts include the book “Let’s Keep Des Moines a Private Joke” and the song “Please Don’t Burn Perry Como,” so he has a sense of humor. But “Legally Dead” is more of a black comedy. Marsha has secreted a bottle in every nook and cranny of her kitchen, where the entire play (100 minutes with no intermission) is set, as well as several flasks about her person, and God knows what she has in the never-seen closet, which houses, at the very least, a ping-pong table and a snowblower. Rebecca, who lives with her mother, works as a church secretary and has found Jesus. Lawyer Annie, who’s just arrived from Peoria, is newly divorced and has found sobriety — for the moment. Tommy’s not expected, since he’s spent the past four years in prison for hiring a hitman, but he blows in after getting a Christmas release. Yorkshire terrier Walter, on the other hand, has gone missing.

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