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The idea for SKYLIGHT (and, indeed, the entire, HH season) followed conversations with Brooke Edwards. Brooke had appeared in the introductory performance pieces for THE HUNCHBACK VARIATIONS, and she and Joe had often talked of their admiration for David Hare’s play, and the possibility of performing it together some day.
Brooke suggested her friend Carrie’s space, (as well as Brian Hohlfeld to direct) and plans were on.
However, Brooke had planned a crushing schedule for herself, which included a lead role in WINTER’S TALE for Shakespeare in August, and the initial production from her new Orange Girls theatre group in October.
After a month of hard rehearsals in late August and September, Brooke was forced to succumb to exhaustion and some of the physical ills it brought on, and SKYLIGHT had to be postponed. (Brian Hohlfeld, scheduled to return to Los Angeles to begin production/script work on a new Disney tv series, was forced to leave the production as well after its scheduled opening.)
After a couple of false starts, Joe decided to remount the production in November. He found the right actress, Tamara Kenny, to take over the role (she and Joe had worked together in Clayton’s THE REAL THING in Fall, 2004), took over direction himself (based on Brian’s original staging, and assisted ably by Sarah Whitney and Stage Manager Larry Dell), and SKYLIGHT was finally up.
Despite its troubled history, SKYLIGHT came to a happy ending – again critics and audiences appreciated this strong script presented in an intimate setting. Brooke’s Orange Girls group produced a very successful initial production – GOING TO SEE THE ELEPHANT (with a great performance from Brooke), and Brian is hard at work bringing the magic of Disney to all of us.
By David Hare
Performed by After Midnight
Directed by Joe Hanrahan, based on original
staging by Brian Hohfield, assisted by Sarah Whitney and Larry Dell
“The one thing you’re spared if you come from ordinary people is a sopping illusion that ordinary people have anything to say.” So professes a character in After Midnight’s current production, Skylight, written by David Hare. And yet the play is of two ordinary people (with a brief appearance by a third) talking for the better part of two hours. It works if you disagree with Hare’s character—if you believe, deep down, that we all have stories to tell, tales that are worth listening to and learning from.
Skylight takes place in the small North London flat of Kyra (Tamara Kenny). She is a schoolteacher, an idealist; she honestly believes if she can make a difference in the life of just one impoverished youth, her life’s mission will be fulfilled. Prior to teaching, Kyra worked in a restaurant owned by Tom (Joe Hanrahan) and his now-deceased wife, Alice. She also lived with them and their son, Edward (Travis Hanrahan), and came to fall in love with the entire family. She also fell into Tom’s bed—until Alice found out, causing Kyra to flee without a word of goodbye. Now, three years later, Tom shows up at her doorstep unannounced—in a strange bit of coincidence, following a surprise visit that very morning by his son—and the two rehash the past, bring each up to date on the present, and contemplate a future.
Obviously, each character still has strong feelings for the other. As they flirt and flit around the truth—different for each, obviously, as they are now leading such disparate lives—we the audience take turns sympathizing with each, understanding and relating and, ultimately, rooting for either their independence or union. Is it as simple as have and have not? Is it the difference in their ages? Is it the fact that, in their final days together, each ultimately betrayed the other, perhaps irrevocably?
Kenny’s performance is utterly mesmerizing. As a young teacher, she still has that spark in her eye that lets us know she truly believes she’s making a difference. The closeness of the venue was a real asset to this production, as it allowed clear views of both characters’ expressions. Kenny’s, in particular, was key to understanding her character. Her face lifted and fell as Kyra’s spirits did, cascading between wide-open happiness to guarded uncertainty to bridled anger to cautious sadness.
Hanrahan was, as always, believable in character and nearly perfect with his lines. But something was off. Perhaps it was his accent, which began as English but quickly drifted away. Perhaps it was that the audience was being asked to accept these two as lovers, sharing the same world (even if one of them has been just a guest). More than likely, though, it was that Kenny simply stole the show with her emotiveness and believability.
Even in a bit role, Travis Hanrahan still showed why he garnered such acclaim at last summer’s Orphans. He is truly a young talent to watch.
“A young girl walks down Kings Road, and in that girl there is infinite potential,” Tom tells Kyra. “I guess I just wanted some of that back.” As do we all, which is why we keep dreaming, hoping, reaching, creating—and attending plays such as Skylight. As do we all.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch review
Reviewed by Calvin Wilson
Kyra (Tamara Kenny) and Tom (Joe Hanrahan) were once lovers, but they've drifted apart. She's a socially committed schoolteacher, he's a prosperous restaurateur, and you have to wonder what the attraction might have been in the first place. Still, when they reconnect after a considerable time, it's also clear that the spark between them hasn't been extinguished.
"Skylight," by British playwright David Hare, is a drama about two people who have trouble reconciling the contradictory impulses of their minds and their hearts. Not only is the dialogue witty and engaging, but you also get the sense that there's quite a bit at stake -- and not just the relationship between Kyra and Tom. In Hare's hands, a broken romance becomes a metaphor for broken society.For such a play, casting just the right actors is essential, and the After Midnight company has done just that. As a woman caught between her ideals and her desires, Kenny is mesmerizing. This is the kind of performance in which the smallest of gestures can signify enormous changes in perception, attitude and resolve.
Hanrahan imbues Tom with an easy charisma that goes a long way toward explaining how Kyra could become involved with someone so unlike herself.
In the small role of Tom's son Edward, Travis Hanrahan demonstrates a gift for comic discombobulation. Joe Hanrahan's direction -- based on original staging by Brian Hohlfeld and with the assistance of Sarah Whitney and Larry Dell -- is fluid and unselfconscious. It's as if we're in Kyra's apartment, silently observing the seismic shifts in her emotional life.
"Skylight" is a demanding play, but an insightful one.
| KWMU Theatre & Film Critic: Joe Pollack
Joe Hanrahan's production company, After Midnight, usually produces small, taut plays in interesting places. His latest, "Skylight," is an interesting play produced in a space that has little character, but which works for the David Hare drama, which opened last weekend, but was first produced here by the Rep in the Spring of 1998.
As staged at the HH Studio on Sutton Avenue in Maplewood, "Skylight" looks at a once-powerful love affair between an ambitious restaurateur and a woman who graduated rapidly from a waitress position to become a mistress who had much control over both the restaurants and her lover's home, where she, his wife and child all lived. The affair ended after six years when his wife found out, and they have been apart for three. His wife has died
.He drops by late one night, after a visit from his son in a sort of prologue, and he's quite interested in picking up where they left off. And that begins the emotional, psychological and semantic battle, with Hanrahan, as Tom, starting with an advantage over Kyra, played by Tamara Kenny. Positions change with see-saw rapidity and words fly. So do emotions, which simmer through the evening to a difficult, thought-provoking conclusion.
Good drama, very well acted.
Revised: October, 2007
© The Midnight Company