The American Plan, Ustinov Studio, Bath
Tuesday 26 March 2013
The American Plan is bit like a hyper-literate variant of Henry James's novella Washington Square, but this play by Richard Three Days of Rain Greenberg boasts its own splendidly astringent wit and pervasive sense of secrets and sadness and stymied hope.
It's an early piece, premiered in the States in 1990 and then revived there by British director David Grindley in 2009. He now mounts the UK premiere in a superlatively acted production that it would be criminal not to see transferred to a studio space in London.
The play is set in 1960 in the Catskills near the palatial lakeside home (adjoining a resort hotel) of the couple who are the equivalent of James's tyrannical parent and the heiress foiled in her desperate desire to escape. Greenberg, though, brings distinctive twists to the scenario. Nearly twenty years ago, Diana Quick gave a stunning central performance in Kindertransport as one of the German children who were sent to England to escape the Holocaust. After the War, her character was, heartbreakingly, unable to forgive her wholly well-meaning mother for the years of separation.
Here, in a brilliantly comic/tragic about-turn, the actress plays an oppressive, rich (and now widowed) German-Jewish mother who escaped to the US “on the last boat” but who, according to her precociously mordant and disturbed daughter (excellent Emily Taafe) has been singing “The Nazis haven't found us/But darling they're all around us” to her since she was in the crib.
Quick shows you a woman who fusses over her treats like a hypochondriac over his medication (how can she drink demitasse when the macher spoons are in a basement in Cologne?) and suppresses her experience of radical uncertainty with a pedantic formality of speech and manner. For her daughter, she predicts “An intricately unhappy life, I'm afraid, lived out in compensatory splendour” – or so she tells one of two apparently eligible preppy young men (Luke Allen-Gale and Mark Edel-Hunt) who show up that summer and find themselves manipulated by a mistress of the art.
This sophisticated, ambiguous play keeps you guessing about all its characters (including Donna Croll's superbly dry black companion). It's very end of the Eisenhower era and there's the sense of a world on the cusp of change. The final scene jumps to 1970. Outside there's a Flower Power happening; inside, ageing people who, unlike the mother, have missed the boat.
To 6 April; 01225 448844
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Canadian woman suing police who locked her in van with sex offender who then raped her
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
Game of Thrones really doesn't want Danny Dyer - EastEnders star rejected three times
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
The secret joke hidden in Silence of the Lambs' most famous line
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
King Abdullah dead: We can't afford not to hold Saudi Arabia's royals to account