A flirty encounter between a precocious young heiress and a buff wannabe architect begins this deceptively ferocious UK premiere in dissemblingly laidback fashion. Over two mounting, intense hours, US playwright Richard Greenberg queasily dissects that peculiar insecurity over identity that both defined and drove twentieth century America.
Set during the US’s post-war zenith, most of the action takes place at the Catskills summerhouse of wealthy Jewish matriarch Eva (Diana Quick), who fled Germany with her inventor husband just before the war. Manipulative, inscrutable and utterly sure of herself, Eva stands in stark contrast to her hyper-intelligent but deeply troubled American daughter Lili (Emily Taaffe) and her daughter’s new love interest, Nick (Luke Allen-Gale), a young man whose claims for himself appear to be founded more on wishful thinking more than fact.
‘The American Plan’ is a magnetically smart and deeply troubling affair, a sweet love story choked by the lies, self-deception and insecurity that Greenberg suggests come with the territory of trying to make it in America. The people Lili and Nick pretend to be should have a bright future; the people who they really are may find wealth, but never happiness.
Greenberg’s largely excellent script is perhaps very slightly melodramatic: a second half twist is unsubtle, if effective. But some truly fantastic performances keep David Grindley’s lean production on track. Taaffe in particular is quite hypnotic as the incandescent Lili.
By Andrzej Lukowski