A young woman is recruited by her sisters to “squat” in a high-priced Manhattan co-op while they settle their inheritance claim, in playwright Rebeck’s second novel (Three Girls and Their Brother, 2008).
Rebeck’s background as a dramatist is immediately apparent in her trenchant dialogue and in the monologue-ready ruminations of her first-person narrator, Tina Finn. Tina, whose immediate past featured a trailer, a junkyard boyfriend and several arrests, learns at her mother’s funeral that she and her sisters Lucy and Alison are about to inherit the Livingston Mansion, Apt. 8A, a palatial slice of Central Park West real estate. Her late stepfather, Bill Drinan, an ailing, alcoholic recluse, had apparently inherited 8A from his first wife, Sophia. Bill left 8A to his second wife, former housecleaner Olivia, the Finn girls’ mother, whom he preceded in death by only a few months. Olivia and Bill had occupied the smallest, shabbiest rooms in 8A, and had, judging from cases of expensive red wine and vodka left behind, literally drunk themselves to death. The apartment’s formal kitchen is lined with moss cultivated by Len, the weird botanist neighbor. The apartment’s showiest rooms have stunning views but no furniture. In the wee hours, Tina is awakened from her own drunken stupor by other claimants to the property: Pete and Doug Drinan, Sophia and Bill’s sons, who grew up in 8A, have barged in to remind her that she has no legal right to occupancy. As the estate battles escalate, Tina is urged by the oh-so-controlling, tightly wound Lucy to ingratiate herself with the co-op board, who are hostile toward the interlopers, not least because Bill was (gasp!) Irish. A storeroom of poignant memorabilia, a secret passage between apartments and a ghost whose voice echoes behind the walls amp up the whimsy.
Although the scenes are impeccably handled and laughs abound, the ending seems arbitrary and abrupt. This would make a great play.