Her husband has divorced her for another man, her psychiatrist is putting the moves on her, and her pre-adolescent son is sad and adrift because of the family crackup.
Trina (Eden Espinosa) tries to create a picture of domestic bliss, but it's a struggle to keep it together. Channeling her best Rachael Ray as she prepares a meal in the kitchen, Trina uses a big knife to take out her frustrations on some bananas and a carrot in a song called "I'm Breaking Down."
The funny and emotionally cutting number, which showcases Espinosa's theatrical gifts, is one of many moving moments in "Falsettos," which opened Tuesday at St. Paul's Ordway Center.
The musical, a Lincoln Center Broadway import directed by James Lapine, is a thing of painful beauty. With stylish and affecting performances, gorgeous songs (by William Finn, who also co-wrote the book with Lapine) and a story that's not all that unusual in the age of "Modern Family" and "Fun Home," "Falsettos" feels contemporary and winning.
But the show predates those works — and has a few dated aspects to prove it.
This 1992 musical (revived in 2016) is about love at the dawn of the Reagan era just as the AIDS epidemic was gathering force. The narrative centers on Marvin (Max von Essen), Trina's gay husband who goes off with his stud muffin lover Whizzer (Nick Adams). Psychiatrist Mendel (Nick Blaemire) is there to help the family heal but eventually gets serious about joining their ranks, spurred by questions from Trina's son Jason (Thatcher Jacobs).
The other two characters in this chamber musical are Dr. Charlotte (Bryonha Marie Parham) and Cordelia (Audrey Cardwell), the lesbians-next-door. After crises and struggles, they all form a, yes, modern family.
Lapine's production uses a modular set by David Rockwell. When we first see it, it looks like nothing more than a white cube, perhaps made of foam rubber. But its pieces come apart for chairs and a bed or an archway or whatever else is needed to suggest the milieus.
Conducted crisply and with heart by P. Jason Yarcho, the band (elevated at the back of center stage) is pitch-perfect for a chamber musical cast that consists entirely of winners.
Adams' Whizzer has the starkest story arc, going from shallow, unlikable homewrecker to dying victim of a troubling, unnamed illness. But the actor sells it well, and by the time everyone gathers around him, you can't help but feel moved.
Kid Jason is a truth teller whose wisdom suggests an adult trapped in a child's body. Jacobs plays it with cuteness, yes, but also wit and heart.
Blaemire is a joy to watch as the neurotic, moody psychiatrist who plays to his patients' quirks, whether dancing with Jason (Spencer Liff did the antic choreography) or inappropriately revealing his attraction to Trina while counseling Marvin.
If there's a nit, it's that Marvin is underwritten. Von Essen nails the strong parts but was not sympathetic as this man who follows his heart but wrecks his family in the process.
Still, as this cast sings at the top of the show, "love is blind and love can tell a million stories." We believe their story in a production that hits many of the right notes.