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  • Theater, Drama
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Skylight: Theater review by David Cote

Society looms large in Stephen Daldry's charged revival of David Hare’s Skylight­—and not just in the second-act state-of-the-nation wrangle between low-income schoolteacher Kyra (Mulligan) and shamelessly rich restaurateur Tom (Nighy). Bob Crowley’s set, backed by a colorful but defiantly drab bank of tenement windows (“council flats” to the British), never lets you forget the wider world beyond Kyra’s drab, barely heated flat. No matter how bitterly personal—or airily abstract—things get between these ex-lovers, you cannot ignore the unseen lives going on behind so many strangers’ panes.

The bulk of Hare’s long theatrical output has doggedly tracked his political and cultural times, a commitment to the now that potentially slaps an expiration date on a work of art. Skylight, while it doesn’t burst with topical references, is very much a post-Thatcher, pre-Blair play, with capitalist bullyboys like Tom maintaining business as usual and disenchanted insiders like Kyra dedicating themselves to repairing the damage of the ’80s.

Not to mislead: The piece is very much a nuanced relationship drama about a worldly, powerful man trying to win back the “other woman” after the death of his wife. Tom’s deflected adulterous guilt and Kyra’s haute bourgeois self-loathing combine in a prickly (but humorous) night of wary reminiscence, reignited passion and—after the inevitable clinch—a reckoning with the past. Throughout, Hare demands to know how are we treating one another—as humans or objects?

This might sound like preaching or, worse, allegory—but Hare’s psychological acuity and love of articulate blusterers is too strong for that: He combines the dialectical relish of Shaw, the cozy-sweater Englishness of Rattigan and the seething outrage of Osborne. All of which means that the material is red meat to actors as fearless and deep-diving as Mulligan and Nighy.

He’s a haughty whirl of sharp elbows and legs scissoring out like a praying mantis; she balances his edgy antics with a convincingly warm, centered performance—but one that hides great pain. There’s an age difference between the characters, and a power imbalance, but the acting is beautifully matched (Matthew Beard is puckishly charming as Tom’s concerned son). To invert a truism, strange bedfellows make politics—and very interesting ones.—David Cote

John Golden Theatre (see Broadway). By David Hare. Directed by Stephen Daldry. With Carey Mulligan, Bill Nighy, Matthew Beard. Running time: 2hrs 20mins. One intermission.

Follow David Cote on Twitter: {A href='!/DavidCote'}@davidcote{/A


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