The Ruins of Civilization: Theater review by Adam Feldman
It's not hard to imagine the trailer for a film version of Penelope Skinner’s dystopian-not-too-distant-future drama, The Ruins of Civilization. It would begin, ominously, with “In a world…,” then pan over an English landscape ravaged by climate change. Perhaps it would linger over a district teeming with poor immigrants and feral animals before swooping into the neat, sterile home shared by Silver (Tim Daly) and Dolores (Rachael Holmes). He is a supercilious novelist, and she is his obedient, miserable wife; they receive a stipend from the government as a reward for staying childless, in accordance with “the Scheme.”
When an illegally pregnant masseuse, Mara (Roxanna Hope), enters their lives, they face a tough choice. Dolores: “This is our opportunity to do the right thing. To stop closing our eyes to what’s happening and make a difference.” Silver: “I already make a difference. I’m writing a book!” This may make The Ruins of Civilization sound like satire. It is not. Hope and Orlagh Cassidy, as a bureaucrat named Joy, breathe life into side characters, but the central couple is vapidly written and the world they inhabit is thinly drawn. One can only hope for a future in which Skinner has written a second draft of the play.—Adam Feldman
Manhattan Theatre Club (Off Broadway). By Penelope Skinner. Directed by Leah C. Gardiner. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs. One intermission.
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