Toward the end of the second act of Matthew Lopez’s family-drama-with-dance, “Somewhere” — receiving a regional premiere at TheatreWorks — things suddenly get very real.
Alejandro (Michael Rosen), hardworking eldest son and head of his close-knit Puerto Rican family by default (Pops is an absentee father), has a meltdown and confesses long-held secrets. Soon after, things draw to a bittersweet finale.
If only the entire play were that emotionally engaging. But it’s not.
It’s 1959, and the musically inclined, Broadway-smitten Candelaria family, minus Pops, lives in a tenement in midtown Manhattan, N.Y., that, it suddenly transpires, is destined for the wrecking ball to make room for Lincoln Center.
In the overlong first act, the family worries about where to go and what to do. Dancerly Rebecca (a shrill Michelle Cabinian) and younger brother Francisco (Eddie Gutierrez), who is studying acting, want to audition for “West Side Story.”
Starry-eyed motormouth Ma (Tony Award winner Priscilla Lopez) incessantly nags a grimly resistant Alejandro to return to dancing (as a 13-year-old he appeared on Broadway in “The King and I”).
Throughout, radio-broadcast voiceovers (sound designer Jeremy J. Lee) evoke the era: the Cuban revolution, civil-rights movement, inklings of the Vietnam war to come, Hollywood goings-on, etc.
Despite the social implications of the displacement of so many Puerto Ricans to build an arts center, Lopez (author of the widely produced play “The Whipping Man”) focuses on the family dynamics.
But those dynamics don’t come into full focus for a long time — too long. Throughout most of the first and some of the second act, the dialogue is repetitive and fairly banal, and in director Giovanna Sardelli’s amped-up production, the energy level is pitched so high as to seem sitcomlike.
Cartoonish performances from the younger siblings don’t help, and Ma’s long, sentimental monologue midstream alters the mood but ultimately feels extraneous.
On the plus side, Leo Ash Evens, as a friend of the family who’s made good as Jerome Robbins’ assistant, offers a nice portrayal plus some dynamite hoofing.
And Andrea Bechert’s elaborate set — two carefully observed apartment interiors and more — provides impressive verisimilitude.
Best of all, the intermittent dancing is a true delight (choreography by Greg Graham), at times encapsulating powerful emotions that, in the acting, tend to be expressed in a more cliche manner.
From infectiously joyous and jazzy salsa styles to, toward the end, an achingly eloquent solo by the gifted Rosen — who also crafts a layered, troubled character — the dancing soars.