Minerva Theatre, Chichester
Written by Amy Herzog
Directed by Richard Eyre
Eileen Atkins’ take on her character, the 95 year old New Yorker Vera Joseph, is the standout feature of what makes, for the most part, a clumsy pot-pourri of themes and issues.
Visited by her grandson Leo (Sebastian Croft), a twenty-something who has seen his coast to coast cycling adventure with a friend end in the friend's tragic death in a road accident, the play explores the relationship between Vera and Leo, with fleeting references to the young man's love (and potential love) interests along the way.
Atkins is a consummately skilled performer, but Richard Eyre fails to extract a convincing New York tone from her words. Her accent is generic American where a harsh Manhattan dialect would have given her more acid observations greater heft. Joseph is a champagne communist like many of her generation, however Amy Herzog rarely journeys beyond cliché in her play’s crass political representations.
Where the script comes alive is in Atkins’ take on her character’s advanced years. Her memory lapses, erratic irascibility and, at times, profound melancholy at the loneliness of her widowhood are poignant and well observed. Sadly, not much else is, and yet again a Chichester audience is found to be laughing insensitively at moments that are far from funny.
It’s not often that a 90 minute play feels like a tedious three hours.
Runs until 10th June
Photo credit: Manuel Harlan