Not the romantic drama that you’d expect, David Hare’s ‘Skylight,’ starring Sarah Street [Kyra Hollis] and Peter Simon Hilton [Tom Sergeant], has a lot of excitement, but none of the lovey, lovey passion so common in a classic romance. In turn, English playwright David Hare gives us an eagle’s view of a divided society, with adversity, clashing political views, and yes, even a little bit of love and lots of humor.
This London-born production, which won the Olivier Award for Best New Play in 1996, opened at Palm Beach Dramaworks last February 7th. Playing until March 1st, the drama happens in one room, one cold night in Kyra Hollis’ apartment. And while we hope that this couple who are so magnetically drawn to each other by great love, but are so mismatched in age and temperament get reunited, we understand from the first scene that their differences, not the affair that looms over their heads and pierces their hearts, will forever separate them.
And therein lies the tragedy.
Tragic theatrical love stories go back for centuries, even before Shakespeare’s time. And Hare’s 1995 drama delivers big on the misery and sadness of that genre. “The play takes place in the post-Thatcher Britain of the early 1990s, but it feels like David Hare is responding directly to our current polarized political time,” said Vanessa Morosco, director of the play. “It almost feels that this play could have been written yesterday.” Morosco is a New York-based director, actor, and ethicist, who’s not new to the PBD main stage. Her performances in Arcadia and The House of Blue Leaves were received with great reviews.
While you’re listening to the exciting and funny arguments about the political differences waged by Kyra, a 30-something schoolteacher in a London slum, and Tom, a restaurant and hotel mogul twenty-years her senior, you don’t feel that what they’re each saying can’t be fixed or that they’re victims of a society that just doesn’t want them to be together. On the contrary, we see how they look to their society—as unbalanced as it is—to try to identify and defend their positions to each other in a hopeful attempt for reconciliation.
Street and Hilton give expert stage performances in this production, and Harrison Bryan, the young actor crucially completes the ensemble as Tom’s teenage son, Edward Sergeant. As the former lovers are brought together for one night to fulfill the simplest of human needs—talking, arguing, and making love, it is in the ordinary preparation of a spaghetti dinner that we get to see who Kyra and Tom really are by every word they utter.
Kyra, who used to live with Tom, along with his wife and children in their luxurious home, has chosen to live in the low part of London. Tom, who grew up poor and was able to leave that life behind, can’t understand why she would move from rich to poor and be content with that kind of life.
Is it the affair that changed Kyra’s heart? Is it the guilt of loving him but betraying Tom’s wife by secretly being his mistress that made her walk out and find her place in a new world, with a new way of life? And is Tom, now a widower of one year, right in trying to reclaim the girl who got away—as he calls her, the love of his life?
And so, like many tragic tales, this play presents these estranged lovers looking back, trying to simply capture the beauty of their love affair, which was tainted by sin and the sadness of it all. The play also presents the process of grieving. Tom and Edward have lost a family member, and Kyra has lost a friend. It takes everyone on an emotional journey of ‘how can we continue forward when one member has been lost?’
When Tom shows up at Kyra’s door, there’s anticipation from the audience that these two can make things work. After all, there’s no wife coming between them, but there is a conflicting world outside Kyra’s shabby little apartment that separates them.
“Skylight” prompts us to take that larger view. To look at our places and choices as participants of a global drama in a very complicated world. The play also causes us to think: is it possible for great love to bring us together despite great aspects of differences?
No doubt, Hare is an extraordinary writer. This play in particular balances his incredible use of language and wit, with real passion, humor, and emotion. There are many scenes between Kyra and Tom that share a tremendous sense of humor and Hare certainly provides plenty of opportunities for the audience to share that humor too.
Skylight is playing at Palm Beach Dramaworks [PBDW] until March 1. To buy tickets, go to www.palmbeachdramaworks.com or call the box office at (561) 514-4042 ext. 2. PBDW is located at 201 Clematis St, West Palm Beach.
‘Skylight’, Brilliant Romantic Drama