Front Row Center
By Michael Warren
By David Hare
Directed by Collette Clavadetscher
This play premiered in London in 1995, and it has received many awards and nominations, including a Tony Award for Best Play in 1997. Somehow it already seems dated, at least to a North American audience.
Essentially the play is about forgiveness, or the lack of it. As the scene opens, a young man “Edward” comes to visit “Kyra” in her miserable cold apartment. He asks her to talk to his father “Tom” who had a love affair with Kyra several years ago. We soon discover that Kyra is much younger than Tom, and had been his mistress for six years until Tom’s wife found out about the affair. Then Kyra walked out on him, never to speak to him again. Subsequently, Tom’s wife becomes ill and dies of cancer. So there’s plenty of guilt and self-punishment to go around.
Tom appears on the scene, and the rest of the play is more or less a monologue as Tom rants at Kyra and attempts to reestablish their relationship. Is it possible? Did they ever love each other? Is the past too difficult to overcome? Dave McIntosh gives an amazing performance as Tom – he carries the play and is entirely believable in his pain and his need to be forgiven. He is very wealthy and successful, but he has a hard time expressing love. And of course his wife never forgave him. By contrast, Tina Leonard is subdued as Kyra, who seems happy living in extreme poverty. She teaches math at a school for problem kids in the slum area of east London. Tom yells at her for her self-inflicted martyrdom, but she doesn’t seem to care, and lands a few blows of her own. In many ways, it’s a more difficult part to play because it’s so understated, and Tina does well though I couldn’t always hear her lines. Enrique Nedar has a small cameo part as Tom’s son Edward and performs it with some zest.
In North America, it is a virtue to be a successful entrepreneur, so we tend to empathize with Tom. Why should he apologize for it? In fact he doesn’t, and he’s proud of his success. But the audience is also led to believe that Kyra is happy in poverty. This doesn’t make much sense, unless at some level she is punishing herself. As the play ends, she sends Tom away – it seems that they both need to be unhappy. The play was very long, and could have benefited from some editing. I’m not sure that Edward’s role was necessary to the action. Perhaps that part could have been eliminated. Collette Clavadetscher chose an interesting play and directed it cleverly, plus she had two very good performers in Dave McIntosh and Tina Leonard. Thanks to ART and congratulations to all involved in this production.
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