Review by Tulis McCall
(14 Dec 2010)
This is another one of those “I have no idea what is going on,” ‘Period!’ kind of productions.
While exiting the theatre this is what I heard: “Okay. WHO was haunted?” “Was she dead the whole time?” “Can you figure this out? Please tell me.”
It is that sort of a production, and after reading the script I can say there was a little more life on those pages than in this production.
Mr. Berry (Niall Buggy) is a man of words and fancies. He likes to read and speak and make life into a kind of winsome poetry. His wife Mrs. Berry (Brenda Blethyn) is facts and sharp edges and a bucket load of disappointments. This marriage is gasping its last when Hazel (Beth Cooke) appears on the scene in search of some vintage clothing. Mrs. Berry has been selling her from time to time and the local thrift store has sent Hazel on to inquire about a specific item.
But Mrs. Berry is not at home when Hazel arrives. Mr. Berry is. The dear man is nearly hit by lightning upon Hazel’s entrance and would float away were not gravity a law that must be obeyed. The meeting is innocent but filled with light and possibilities. Hazel leaves without the object for which she came, but with a dandy substitute in the form of an angora cardigan. The game is on and the enchantment at hand.
It all comes to no good for the obvious reason. Mr. Berry’s love is unrequited. But the facts of how this all plays out are obscure in the extreme. The dress sought by Hazel is one from the 1920’s, but if the play is set in the present, Ms. Blethyn is not old enough to have worn one. Mr. Berry makes up a story about a box left at the door and then vanishing. It is never mentioned again. There is a reference to a coal-man rumbling with his horse and cart over the cobblestones – what decade are we in?
As to the relationships themselves, these sad folk are living in parallel universes that occasionally collide. There is certain poetry in the text especially the fine monologues of Mr. Buggy. But the dots of this tale are connected in the most tenuous of fashion. The words never seem to find their mark in the other person. They are delivered in earnest but the intended receiver is always out of reach, like a child backing away from ocean waves.
The show’s design presents difficulties as well with three chairs taking on most of the work, a dolly on a Plexiglas podium upstage, and a carousel horse that flies in and out only once. The frosted glass walls hide little of the comings and goings. The costumes are a hodge-podge: Ms. Blethyn wears high heels that make her look uncomfortable in her performance; velvet jackets and a straw hat for Mr. Buggy, and a radical change in style for Ms. Cooke in her final scene.
The actors give it their all, but there is not enough substance on which to hang your hat, sorry to say. There is Sturm und Drang a plenty, but no hook to compel you in off the street for a sit down.