Harold Pinter comes to the American suburbs in Joel Drake Johnson’s Four Places, a play in which you don’t know whether to laugh or gasp at the darkness that seems to lie in the hearts of all the characters. It’s a perfect play for Next Act Theatre – a play that’s rooted in a contemporary […]

Harold Pinter comes to the American suburbs in Joel Drake Johnson’s Four Places, a play in which you don’t know whether to laugh or gasp at the darkness that seems to lie in the hearts of all the characters. It’s a perfect play for Next Act Theatre – a play that’s rooted in a contemporary social issue, but which examines it with depth and an expansive vision.

The setup couldn’t be more commonplace – a daughter (Mary MacDonald Kerr) picks up her elderly mother (Flora Coker) for a weekly lunch date, and this time the brother-son (Mark Ulrich) comes along. Something must be up, but Drake Johnson’s dialogue masks the tension with chatter about sights along the way or why there’s a wait for a table.

The reason for the family meeting doesn’t take long to surface, and the power and beauty of the play lies in way the script hops between the shockingly surreal and the everyday. Coker is a performer with a musical voice who is as comfortable in Samuel Beckett’s world as she is in kitchen sink realism – and here her style fits perfectly. Director David Cesarini clearly wants to keep the family’s dysfunction in a kind of comic smolder, never letting it truly explode until the final moments. This is, after all, a family with decades of practice in dissemblance and evasion. Even when the behavior reaches almost absurd levels of maliciousness, there’s another white lie to keep action at bay. Kerr and Ulrich capture the uneasiness of their family ties, and Laura Gray finds just the right malevolent sweetness in her role as a waitress with her own dark secret.

Comments

comments