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Harper Regan

(Review by Tulic McCall)

This play begs the question: Did anyone read this script before they decided to produce it?

This is supposed to be the story of a woman who is cornered by life and death, and takes it upon herself to blow town. Harper Regan (Mary McCann) has just received the news that her father is dying. In the first scene made brilliant by Jordan Lage as the smarmy and very peculiar Elwood Barnes, Harper stands like a deer in headlights while Elwood denies her request. Barnes is self referential and operatic in his denial, giving the feeling that he may have undressed Harper without us noticing.

In this scene, as in pretty much all the others, Harper never sits or finds her grounding. Off we then go to her family, an unemployed husband Seth (Gareth Saxe) and a very smart daughter Sarah played by Madeleine Martin. Seth is floundering in his life, without a job and losing hope. Sarah is a seething mass of smarts and hormones.

Harper walks out to go on an errand, and instead goes to Manchester where her father has already died. Here she has a run in with a piece of work named Mickey (Peter Scanavino) while having a morning visit to a local bar. After a bit of this and that, she hits him in the neck with her wine glass, steals his leather coat and leaves him bleeding on the floor. She does tell us later that she called an ambulance. Goodie!

After that it is a tryst, and another terrific scene made so by an impeccable performance (and well written part finally) by Christopher Innvar who is a man in search of a night away from his wife. This is a sensual many-layered scene in which Innvar is masterful. The two stand the entire time which is puzzling and exhausting to watch.

Then we have a scene with the estranged mother Alison (Mary Beth Peil) - again no sitting even though this is supposed to be a kitchen - who chops one set of vegetables to death over the course of the scene. These two don't understand one another and refuse to compromise. Wow. Now there's an original idea.

Finally Harper makes it home to an angry daughter and rueful husband. In the last scene she has prepared a garden breakfast that they all sit down (finally!!!) to share. Harper confesses her tryst much as one might share a recipe for morning biscuits. When Sarah joins them Seth waxes eloquent in an almost Beckett like fashion about the possibilities of the human species and his hopes for seeing a sunrise in Kent on a regular basis.

The end.

Maybe this production would not have been so stiff and halting and cold if there had been some directing juice applied to its stiff joints. One will never know. There is a lot of fine talent on that stage, but aside from Invarr and Lage, not if it makes it out into the light. As it is now Harper Regan is more like a collection of statues than a collection of lives.

"Beautiful, sharp and melanchol."
Ben Brantley for New York Times

"The drone of willful eccentricity at times drowns out the ring of authenticity."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News

"The most emotion this show creates is the joy of finally being able to leave the theater after two hours and 20 minutes of mind-numbing soul-searching."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

"Far too muddled for its own good."
Suzy Evans for Back Stage

"Contrived and thoroughly unpersuasive."
Robert Feldberg for The Record

"Although the sorrowful play satisfies only in spots, the company's excellent acting is highly enjoyable."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey

"Every woman is entitled to her mid-life crisis, but the elaborate meltdown that Simon Stephens engineers in 'Harper Regan' is wasted on an uninspiring character."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety

External links to full reviews from popular press...

New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Back Stage - The Record - Newsroom Jersey - Variety

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