KPBS AIRDATE: September 21, 1994 >
At a time when stages and screens are crammed with hulky heroes and adorable ingénues, it’s kind of refreshing that the Globe has mounted two thought-provoking plays that focus on older folks. Though both are very competently presented, we are struck, and moved, more by the plays than by the productions.
The less accessible of the two is David Storey’s “Home,” a small, allegorical piece now playing at the Cassius Carter Centre Stage. Nothing much happens here. Two refined older Englishmen meet and sort of talk, in fragmented, often disjointed sentences. They acutely watch the weather. And their watches. A clock ticks in the background.
After awhile, they are joined by two raucous cockney women who find sexual innuendo in everything these stuffy guys say. It is the women’s talk that leads us to understand that this is not just some park or patio. We are on the grounds of a vast mental hospital, which is for these characters, an unwilling and unending home. The men, politely evasive, say little of substance; they seem to be assiduously avoiding their pain. But they both cry easily. The women, far more blunt, tell us what each of them is “in for” — and they readily erupt in laughter, bringing a heightened energy to the piece.
Anne Gee Byrd and Katherine McGrath give vitality to the women. Jonathan McMurtry and Donald Burton bring a quiet dignity to the men, but they don’t achieve the stature and depth of feeling that they should. Director Craig Noel has gracefully underplayed the piece, but it seems to focus more on the passage of time than on the sense of lost dreams, isolation and alienation.
Written in 1970, “Home” is often seen as an elegy for England in decline, where the future is bleak, and everyone seems to have lost their mind. This production paints a small, sad, personal picture, rather than a more grandly depressing one.
Grand themes and the state of the nation also serve as a backdrop to A.R. Gurney’s latest creation, “Later Life.” Gurney continues his chronicling of the dying WASP aristocracy in America. Here, a successful Boston Brahmin meets a multiple divorcée on the terrace of a Boston high-rise, which on this stage, looks more like a well-grounded French colonial mansion. He doesn’t remember, but they met 30 years back; they were mutually attracted, but he begged off. Now they are attracted again, and though all the intruding characters around them seem to be able to make a move, these two cannot. They are rooted in the past. On a larger scale, the country, in its own later life, seems to be rootless.
The unending stream of secondary characters, all played humorously, if somewhat unevenly, by Linda Atkinson and Richard Easton, represent a country in disarray, riddled with recovering smokers, militant lesbians, weepy gays, aging sports-minded Yuppies, computer geeks, academic pedants and the hopelessly politically correct.
The play is sad and touching, but the production, directed by Nicholas Martin, is curiously unmoving. Most disappointing, there is no palpable chemistry between leads Frank Converse and Jennifer Harmon, though they play their parts well.
Both Globe productions, objectively impressive, stay too close to the surface, and don’t look deeply enough at the broad, dark underbelly of these unnerving plays.
I’m Pat Launer, KPBS radio.
©1994 Patté Productions Inc.