|David Hare's play Skylight explores our encrypted hearts
posted by Ralph Malachowski on May 23, 2019 10:30am | comments
The McCarter Theatre Center of Princeton, New Jersey, is now presenting David Hare’s drama Skylight at their Berlind Theatre until June 2.
Sir David Hare (born 1947) has been a playwright, screenwriter, and director. Notable plays have included such world-wide successes as Plenty (also a film in 1985) and Skylight (1995, London revival, 2014, and Broadway 2015), while his screenplays for The Hours (2002) and The Reader (2008) earned him two Academy Award nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay, among many other honors.
Skylight is a three-character play which runs 2 hours and 20 minutes directed by the estimable Emily Mann. For most of that time we have two characters verbally sparring with each other over their past relationship, and societal woes in post-Thatcher Britain. Mahira Kakkar is Kyra Hollis, a thirty-something living in a dilapidated flat in a dicey part of London. She teaches at a school where teachers and a cafeteria lady are assaulted, robbed, and abused. Into the play, she also shares that she was once spat upon by a student. Her miserable flat (designed by Broadway legend Beowulf Boritt) is as cold inside as outside, since it is often mentioned that it is best to leave one’s overcoat on, since there is only one, tiny and sad space heater for the apartment which often has icy mists inside it. Into this comes Zane Pais (Edward Sergeant), an 18-year-old youth. We learn that Kyra lived with the Sergeants for 6 years, until she finally left without a word one day a few years ago. Edward bears the scar of her desertion and his mournful father’s vocal abuse (Greg Wood as Tom Sergeant, aged 50) who after a year is still obsessed with his wife’s painful death by cancer. Kyra first sees Edward as she arrives home from work, only to have Tom arrive minutes after Edward’s departure. The drama picks up speed as we are told that Kyra was 18, saw a sign for a waitress job on her first visit to London, was given the job, and the same day made herself an invaluable asset to the business owned and run by the wealthy Sergeants. She was then invited to live with the Sergeants. During that time she became Tom’s lover. And so it goes from there.
For some, Skylight might at times be a long argument between two mismatched people who became lovers. For others, Skylight might be a lurid investigation into the wheedling insecurities of heterosexual love between two people who are twenty years apart in age. While for others Skylight is a panoply of the concupiscent ecstasies of verbal hairsplitting and navel gazing. You may subscribe to any of these or to the fact that the playwright wrote this in the 1990s, and it is an artefact of its time.
Many audience members will joke about the ever-presence of food throughout the play. A spaghetti dinner is made during most of the first act, while an early snack is also munched at 2:30 am, and the surprise ending of the play, courtesy of, you guessed it, food. At one point, Edward asks Kyra what she missed most when she left the Sergeants. Clearly, he wanted to hear her say he was missed. But, no, Kyra says she missed a hot cup of coffee, lovely toast, and scrambled eggs. One is reminded of Spencer Tracy’s making a sandwich in the 1956 film, The Mountain. It was said that was the only thing Tracy could think of for stage business while listening to Robert Wagner’s long speech.
All said, Skylight is a far-reaching, intensely personal interrogation of lovers in a particular place and time who never really could talk to each other. It is an adult drama well worth seeing.
The McCarter continues to present a range of music, dance and special events. The 2019-2020 Theater Season has been announced. For more information about Skylight, or any other offering, visit www.mccarter.org .