Saturday, September 29, 2012

Harper Regan ***

(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
Simon Stephens's provocative play was a hit in London when it premiered at the National Theatre in 2008. It went on to well-received productions in Chicago and San Francisco. Now it is in previews at The Atlantic Theater Company. Let me start by saying that I found it fascinating and annoying in almost equal measure. Mary McCann, onstage for two hours, is superb as a 41-year-old woman having a midlife crisis in an England that has lost its way. We see her in a series of scenes with her obnoxious boss (Jordan Lage), a 17-year old black student (Stephen Tyrone Williams), her mysteriously unemployed husband (Gareth Saxe), her difficult teenaged daughter (Madeleine Martin), a well-meaning nurse (Mahira Kakkar), a rabidly antisemitic journalist that she meets in a bar (Peter Scanavino), a married man that she meets at a hotel (Christopher Innvar), her estranged mother (the always excellent Mary Beth Peil), her mother's younger second husband (John Sharian) and his apprentice (Vandit Bhatt.) Almost every scene has dialogue that is at least slightly off kilter and ends unpredictably. A series of gradually revealed secrets builds effectively. Some of Harper's motivations are muddy, some of her behavior seems implausible, and the somewhat upbeat ending seems less than fully earned. The set of movable grey slabs by Rachel Hauck is approprately stark. Gaye Taylor Upchurch's direction is assured. I was alternately intrigued, annoyed and exhilarated, but never bored. (Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes including intermission.)


Anonymous said...

Everything you commented on accurately described the play, but for me there was no clear central idea uniting all the separate parts. It wasnt a tragedy, it wasnt a family drama, it wasnt topical. It was well acted and suavely presented. But there was no there there.

Robert Sholiton said...

Thanks for your comment. It is indeed an elusive play.