“Skylight” by British playwright David Hare, is proof that everything old is. . .well, you know.
As presented by South Bend Civic Theatre, “Skylight” opened Friday evening in the Barbara K. Warner Studio Theatre and offered the audience a good play with solid performances and a lot to think about.
The setting is a small coldwater flat in East London circa 1995. In Cliff Shoults’ monochromatic set design, all the appliances actually work including the stove, sink and refrigerator! Quite unusual, especially in a studio production, but definitely effective and a test to the actress who must cook dinner and boil water for tea all according to the timing in the script. Even the kettle whistles on cue or, at least, it did opening night!
In the cast of three, under the direction of Mark Abram-Copenhaver, are Sion Shepley as Edward Sergeant who begins the action with a brief but unexpected visit to Kyra Hollis (Katie Jung-Zimmerman) to ask for help with his father Tom Sergeant (Cecil Eastman).
Kyra was employed by Tom, a successful restauranteur, and lived with the family. She and Tom had a six-year affair. When his wife Alice learned of it, Kyra left the job and the family.
That was three years ago. Since then, Alice has died of cancer and Tom has withdrawn even further from his son and turned to alcohol. Edward has come to ask Kyra, whom he regarded as a big sister, why she left and to come back.
His visit is followed by that of his father, whose immediate reactions to Kyra’s cold and dingy flat and to her current employment are expressed in a sharply condescending attitude . She defends her job, teaching underprivileged children, and, in turn, mocks his privileged lifestyle with which he does nothing for anyone else.
Kyra, who came from a well-to-do family, and Tom, who worked his way up from extreme poverty to wealth and power, definitely are not a match made in heaven. — or anywhere else, for that matter.
She fixes him a spaghetti dinner and, as the evening wears on, they are unable to resist the attraction that kept them together for six years.
That’s all in Act One.
In spite of the characters differences, they are meant to share a definite attraction which becomes obvious by the sudden and fairly explosive physical rapprochement which ends the act..
Act Two, when the flush of passion subsides, asks whether or not a pair, so diametrically opposed, can compromise enough for a lasting relationship despite the obvious age difference and equally obvious choice of lifestyles.
Jung-Zimmerman keeps a tight rein on Kyra’s emotions although she is the one who has little difficulty talking about her feelings. She goes about the kitchen easily stirring the sauce and boiling the pasta and defending her food choices against Tom’s sneering comments. Kyra is content to wait and listen and give little away in the conversational skirmishes. It is, however, fairly obvious that she has made her own decisions and will not be easily changed. It is a layered performance and certainly relevant in the age of #MeToo.
Eastman (who bears a striking resemblance to Bill Nighy who played Tom in the 2015 Broadway revival) has full run of the set and makes good use of it, striding from the kitchen to the living area, slashing the air as he defends his patronizingly self-centered behavior, sure that once the bedroom has been conquered, the rest of the living arrangements will be changed to his satisfaction.
Situations, however, have a way of working themselves out.
Half of the fun of “Skylight” — if, indeed, it is “fun” to watch the struggles that make up any relationship — is seeing just how these will be resolved — or not.
The puzzler, which is surely not the solution, is the re-entry of Edward bearing gifts (of a sort), Is this closure for Kyra or a new beginning or just the resurgence of an old friendship?
Mr. Hare, it seems, is leaving it up to the audience to decide..
SKYLIGHT plays through Sunday in the Warner Studio Theatre, 403 N. Main St., South Bend. For performance times and reservations, call (574) 234-1112 or visit www.sbct.org