by Gregory Beam.
Old Red Lion Theatre 418 St John St EC1V 4NJ To 25 January 2014.
T0ue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 1hr 55min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 412 4307.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 11 January.
Family tensions given a new angle in New England setting.
A major strength of American Gregory Beam’s play is what it is not about. It is not about multi-ethnic families; it is not about Muslim and Christian; it is not about young people going off the rails. All these things contribute to the situation when daughter Samara who gave up on university to go her own way, returns to the family home, as does half-sister Abra, before the funeral of their father, Yassir, who has killed himself.
How White Samara came to have her name, and be a member of the family are among things explained in brief flashbacks, but what matters is her natural-seeming position in the place she grew up, even if she has fled to the other side of America as a young adult.
Beam introduces motifs which create assumptions and expectations, undermined by subsequent revelations. The impact is to rein-in simplistic judgment and to see the two daughters (the parents and intruding family member Danny are less examined) in new, clearer light.
Even Danny, who links to past sexual crime, is part of the re-revelations as, late in the play, he tries doing what Beam has done all along and present a false impression of the fight he has had with Samara.
Props are part of the reversal of expectations. Alcohol is almost a fifth character, but it takes the intervention of thirsty Danny to flick a stark switch in our understanding of Lou’s character when it comes to drinking. And the ultimate firing of the gun that’s been waved around in anger has an unexpected result (tragic for the family but in a theatrical context carrying an unfortunate hint of comedy).
If New England was the original melting-pot of the USA, Beam’s play shows the human ingredients of a society mixed together with problems arising as people not from being members of this or that group.
In Sean Martin’s Old Red Lion production, this maturity is reflected in the performances, particularly Dilek Rose’s quietly sensible Abra and Lou Broadbent’s Samara, coming to grips with her life. Katie Bellmann’s set successfully gives a lived-in, family feel.
Abra/Safweh: Dilek Rose.
Samara: Lou Broadbent.
Yassir: Allon Sylvain.
Danny: James Corscadden.
Director: Sean Martin
Designer: Katie Bellman.
Lighting: Will Scarnell.
Sound: Angus MacRae.
Assistant director: Hannah Kerin.