Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Scotland Road"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark

"Scotland Road"

by Jeffrey Hatcher
Directed by Michael Murray

Scenic Design by Richard Chambers
Lighting Design by John Malinowski
Sound Design by David Wilson
Costume Design by Frances Nelson McSherry
Props Design by Nochole Miller
Production Stage Manager Johnie Steele

John..........................Jim Nutter
Halbrech..............Rachel Harker
The Woman..........Juliet Gowing
Frances Kittle.....Patricia Pellows

First of all, this review will not tell you where Scotland Road was --- or still is, I guess, though no one walks it anymore. Second, it won't tell you who is really lying in this play, though each person in it is not what they seem. Third, the play begins with a maddeningly enigmatic half hour designed to prick your curiosity without satisfying it, and it ends by answering all your original questions in ways you will probably prefer to leave the theatre believing are implausible. I can only say it is compellingly well acted, gathers momentum by continually springing surprises, and that everyone who stayed for the press-night party was talking, excitedly, about what they thought of the play. Not many of them agreed, and you might not agree with any of them either. But I think you should see it for yourself.

Consider this, though: if you had a whole lot of money and wanted to prove someone written about in a supermarket tabloid was a liar and a fake, how would you do it? Say people allege she was picked off an iceberg by an Icelandic fisherman, was wearing clothing seventy years old, and was known to utter only the single word "Titanic." Would you lock her in an antiseptically white room with no one but a psychologist specializing in mutes and record her on hidden cameras and microphones hoping you'd catch her slipping up --- or, during your grillings, that she'd even say anything at all?

But then, why should that single word "Titanic" hold such a fascination for you as to make such obsessional acts necessary in the first place? Merely the whim of the well-to-do? The psychologist would treat her --- and would try to make you treat her --- with human understanding, but she'd think all this was a treatable delusion, not a lie, wouldn't she? And if you could somehow spring on her a surprise, an unexpected witness, would that settle anything, or raise even more unsettling questions?

In the small, neatly interactive cast, Jim Nutter is arrogant scepticism personified, as Rachel Harker is protective compassion. One tries to make her talk, the other to help her to talk, but of course the one with the money wins their raging arguments over technique. And until she talks --- as talk she does (a little slip of information this review perhaps should have withheld) --- Juliet Gowing's luminously attentive, unflappably aware young face is at the center of every eye in the room. Late in the show, Patricia Pellows is shoved on stage in a wheelchair and every grumpily sardonic thing she says hints very philosophically at her secret, which shockingly explodes in her face.

There is an art to the building of suspense, Tom Stoppard says, and if everything this review refused to tell you about this play doesn't make you go see it, perhaps two things will. Jeffrey Hatcher wrote "Scotland Road", as well as an adaptation of "The Turn of The Screw," "Vandals," "Downtown," and "Three Viewings" which many of you must have seen. And the director is the incomparable Michael Murray, whose fingerprints are nowhere to be seen on these continually surprising performances.

If you see this with a friend, you will discuss all the way home what different things each of you thought about what's really happening here. And, who knows, you may never look at a supermarket tabloid or iceberg lettuce with the same eyes again.

You have been warned...


"Scotland Road" (till 6 June)
54 Lincoln Street, NEWTON HIGHLANDS

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide