Considering the frothy subject matter that has been the typical fare for so many years at Theatre on the Square, it was refreshing to experience the thought provoking drama that is “Skylight” now playing at the Mass Avenue theater until Feb. 13. This writer attended Friday’s opening night.
Gari Williams handily directed the emotionally gripping work written by preeminent British playwright David Hare. The play premiered on London’s East End in 1995 and was revived on Broadway in 2015.
The drama is set in London’s rundown Northwest side in the spartan apartment of schoolteacher Kyra Hollis. One evening she is visited by Edward Sargeant the son of Tom Sargeant, her former lover, who coincidentally shows up later that same night. Kyra had lived with the family, as an employee, years earlier, but left when Tom’s wife discovered the two of them were sleeping together.
Edward, who regarded Kyla as a sister figure has come to confront her about why she abandoned him. Later, Tom, a wealthy entrepreneur, appears. Offering no reason for his visit, he proceeds to mock Kyra for her meager living arrangements, alleging that she is engaged in some sort of self-penance. As Kyra cooks a meal, the two of them reminisce about the good and not so good aspects of their relationship. There is a possibility that reconciliation might occur but all depends on whether one of the mismatched pair is willing to essentially change who he or she is. A compromise between the two of them doesn’t seem possible.
There is sexual tension between the estranged duo despite the fact that the two have little in common when it comes to values, politics, economics and even temperament. Then there is the fact that Tom grew up poor and achieved success while Kyra grew up privileged and gave it up to live amongst the underprivileged and marginalized. Kyra’s choice is one that utterly confounds and exasperates Tom.
A lot of what separates Tom and Kyra is their difference of opinion regarding issues surrounding business, class and education—mirroring the debate between opposing sides in contemporary American society—making “Skylight” all the more relevant during this current presidential election year.
Besides lively intellectual stimulation, “Skylight” offered outstanding performances by Bill Simmons as Tom, Sarah McGee as Kyra and Tyler Ostrander as Edward.
Simmons and McGee, who impressed this reviewer as co-stars in “The Nether” at the Phoenix Theatre in October, also turned in exceptional performances in this TOTS production.
Simmons, a veteran Phoenix Theatre actor and Meisner acting class instructor was suitably annoying as insufferable, arrogant Tom, whose condescending demeanor hardly makes him a sympathetic, much less likeable, character.
McGee was superb as altruistic Kyra who is intent on retaining her independence and integrity. McGee, a natural acting talent, was especially proficient at maintaining focus while preparing a meal on stage in real time—not an easy feat—during the play’s first act. However, McGee’s lack of projection made it difficult sometimes to hear her at times, especially when the theatre’s heating blower kicked in.
Ostrander, who shined in previous roles seen by this writer at the Phoenix and a children’s theatre play at the Indiana Repertory Theatre was equally effective as the rebellious, yet vulnerable Edward.
All three actors excelled in delivering authentic-sounding British accents. A dialogue coach was not credited in the show’s printed program but it would appear that the cast members had expert assistance.
Several times during the show an erroneous computer image kept popping up on the scrim behind the set but presumably, by now, the problem causing the glitch has been resolved. That minor distraction hardly made a dent, however, considering the overall quality of the show’s technical elements. John Walker’s well executed set with its partly functioning kitchen; Jeff Martin’s lighting design; and Gari Williams and John Joyner’s sound design, all contribute to production values that reflect a significant upgrade for TOTS. Stacy Ricks, who is the show’s stage manager and Walker, also deserve praise for their attention to detail relating to the show’s props.
For tickets and information about Theatre on the Squares “Skylight” call (317) 685-8687 or visit tots.org.