by Amy Herzog.
The Print Room 34 Hereford Road Notting Hill W2 5AJ To 1 June 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7221 6036.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 May.
Drama making a virtue out of the undramatic.
Distance isn’t just the eponymous mileage between Manhattan, where Communist granny Vera lives, and Seattle whence apolitical grandson Leo arrives, unexpected, in the early hours. At 21 he’s 70 years her junior and starts-out calling-in for one night only. Yet Amy Herzog here explores the contours of connections as well as distinctness between its characters.
If Vera’s flat is cramped he’ll camp outside – he has backpack, tent and bike. But he stays, and soon she shows signs of missing him when he talks of returning to the great outdoors.
Herzog’s play works through the absence of drama. Plot intrigue is deliberately undeveloped, a comic in flagrante moment simply feeds back into the pattern of regular life. A late dramatic rush takes Leo offstage – the only place anything happens – for a reason calmly explained later, and used to show his ineptitude over a speech he’s never, anyway, going to make.
Herzog builds scenes skilfully through Leo’s stay, incorporating cameos for the two young women who visit him. Characters cope with problems and sadness, as people mostly do. It can, though, seem too patterned, too deliberate as a piece. James Dacre’s production heightens this with the faintly sinister, unearthly if subdued, lighting and background sound between scenes.
Transferred from Bath’s Ustinov Studio, it elicits a quartet of fine performances, all respecting Herzog’s restrained manner but filling characters with individual vibrancy. The contrast between Jenny Hulme’s emotionally-weighted Bec and Jing Lusi’s wary, pleasure-seeking Amanda, proud of her name and catching Leo’s interest through a similarity with his sister, are exactly as pointed and limited as they should be, while Daniel Boyd beautifully judges Leo’s open manner and its measure of naivety alongside a positive sense of purpose.
In the midst of which Sara Kestelman gives a fine portrait of Vera, its extensive detail of age – where every breath, gesture and memory, let alone every attempt to move around the room, is a time-consuming effort – never obscuring the overall picture of an active, mentally-alert person. As with every one of these four, her time on stage seems just part of a convincing, continuing life.
Leo Joseph-Connell: Daniel Boyd.
Vera Joseph: Sara Kestelman.
Amanda: Jing Lusi.
Bec: Jenny Hulme.
Director: James Dacre.
Designer/Costume: Simon Kenny.
Lighting: Richard Howell.
Sound: Adrienne Quartly.
Dialect coach: Charmian Hoare.