Reviewed by Neal Weaver
Davidson/Valentini Theatre at the Los Angeles LGBT Center
Through June 25
Ambiguities proliferate in Scottish playwright David Harrower’s fascinating, sometimes harrowing drama, which won the 2007 Lawrence Olivier Award for best new play.
The action occurs in the trash-littered breakroom of an unidentified company. A young woman, Una (Charlotte Gulezian), has arrived, demanding to see an employee named Peter. But when he appears, he is now named Ray (Bradley Fisher). Why has he changed his name? He is clearly nervous and frightened by her presence, and strives to persuade her to go outside with him, to avoid embarrassing him before his co-workers. But she is both determined and angry, and intent on some kind of showdown. After some verbal skirmishing, it gradually emerges that the middle-aged Ray seduced her when she was 13 years old.
He’s uncertain what she wants of him, but fearful of the possibilities. Initially, she seems hell-bent on destroying him, but relations between them are volatile and changeable. At times, they seem to be totally at war with one another, while at others they become downright mellow, like former lovers sharing affectionate recollections. Was this a real love affair, or a case of child molestation? It’s a he said/she said conundrum, and neither of them seems to be an entirely reliable narrator.
As their encounter continues, we learn more and more about their relationship. She admits she was in love with him. He insists that he cared about her, and wasn’t like those other guys — that is, habitual pedophiles. They each offer an account of their disastrous last encounter which ruined both their lives. But at every turn, just when we think we’re beginning to understand the situation, another revelation skews the tale again. Both characters win our sympathy, and at times it seems that the real villain of the piece is the conventional society around them which tormented and punished them relentlessly.
Harrower’s clever insightful script leads us through a maze of contradictions and revelations, and director Anna Stromberg explores every twist and turn, breaking open the situation to reveal the painful emotional realities beneath the surface. Fisher provides an eloquent portrait of a man who has lost so much and so often that he no longer expects to win. And Gulezian offers a richly layered portrait of a woman whose angry bravado conceals an aching vulnerability. A cameo appearance by another actor is not credited in the program.
Burt Grinstead’s minimalist set is gritty and grungy, and Matt Richter’s lighting and sound design is sometimes effective and sometimes merely distracting.
Davidson/Valentini Theatre at Los Angeles LGBT Center, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood. June 14, 21, & 22, 8:30 p.m. June 24 & 25, 4:30 p.m. (323) 860-7300 or www.lalgbtcenter.org/theatre. Running time: 80 minutes with no intermission.