Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Lost in Yonkers"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark


by David Hare
Directed by Rick Lombardo

Scenic Design by Richard Chambers
Lighting Design by John Malinowski
Costume Design by Jana Durland Howland
Props Design by Jenifer Drew
Production Stage Manager Johnie Steele

Kyra Hollis.......N. Rose Liberace
Edward Sargeant....Brian McManamon
Tom Sargent........John Fitzgibbon

Okay, I confess that on press-night I left late, the MBTA dawdled, and I got to Newton Highlands so late I missed the first ten or twenty minutes of the first act. I have begged to be allowed back to see the entire show later in the run, but I can say about what I did see that David Hare's "Skylight" is the best play, by the best director, with the best cast I have seen in an excellent year of theater. So stop reading here, cast your eyes down to the phone-number, and order tickets now --- the house at The New Repertory Theatre isn't all that big, you know, and their subscribers actually go to the plays. You shouldn't get left out.

Besides, considering my difficulties, you can expect that I might get some details wrong. I do know that N. Rose Liberace and John Fitzgibbon play two people who for several years had an extra-marital affair that ended when his wife first found out. Now that she's dead, he has come to her flat hoping they can pick up where they left off, only to find that she has changed. But before and after they sleep together (in the interval, as the English would put it) they argue, toe to toe and no holds barred, about almost everything.

The glory of this play, and of this production, and of this cast, is that the two rattle on at express-train speed, changing subjects faster than a hard-courts tennis match, and at every step of the way it is perfectly clear that whatever they're saying is, always, only a surface indication of several layers of antagonisms that keep them apart. I'll have to see it a second time to figure out how the hell they manage it.

He is a tycoon who keeps opening new restaurants, and she was a young manager who enjoyed moving up as his assistant, helpmeet, and lover even though they both loved his wife and thought never to hurt her. But now she's become a schoolteacher in a grubby neighborhood bent on making a difference in poor kid's lives. And so they argue about money, about class, about privilege, about politics, about morality, about infidelity, about guilt, about responsibility, about truth, about hypocrisy, and about every damn one of them at once, all in a clear, ringing, duel-to-the-death seriousness that never falters, never flags. Golly jeepers is it good!

Fitzgerald (who was brilliant as the dissolute Jamie in "A Moon for The Misbegotten" last season) plays a suave, selfish, unapologetic self-made success bent on reacquiring the one thing he's lost, his predator's eager grin undercut by a nervous fiddling with his thinning hair. Liberace (who opened Rick Lombardo's first season at The New Rep as young Rose in "The Scarlet Letter") plays a wilfully impoverished liberal, a living repudiation of everything he stands for. She mostly stands or sits, he circles restlessly. Neither gives a millimeter, and the score goes to deuce on every single point.

Book-ending this argument are first and last scenes in which Brian McManamon (who earned his Equity card by playing Bobby in The New Rep's excellent "American Buffalo") playing the tycoon's 18-year- old son ("He's as old as you were when we first met, Kyra") comes to talk to the woman who used to baby-sit him about --- well, actually, about things I'd know more about if the damned MBTA hadn't --- well, no ignore that. In any case, his actions in the final scene strongly suggest that, despite all the infighting and the intellectual mayhem of this play, there is genuine hope for the future of mankind. I said it was a damn good play, didn't I?

Richard Chambers designed and Jenifer Drew festooned a totally naturalistic north London flat --- the detail and clutter here are the opposite of his starkly simple minimalist setting for "Valley Song" last year. And there is a window-full of (patent-pending) dawnlight by John Malinowsky, the bloody Monet of lighting designers, and three different class-levels of costumes from Jana Durland Howland.

And there, lost in the middle of it all, is Artistic Director Rick Lombardo, whose method is no longer a mystery to me. He simply asks everyone, quietly and politely, to be perfect --- and they are.


"Skylight" (till 25 October)
54 Lincoln Street, NEWTON HIGHLANDS

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide