Hare examines change and romance

January 25, 1999|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

The central question about the former lovers at the core of David Hare's "Skylight" isn't just whether they'll get back together, but how they connected in the first place.

In director Barry Feinstein's production at Fell's Point Corner Theatre, Mark E. Campion plays rich chauvinist Tom Sergeant, a successful restaurateur whose elitism fits him as comfortably as his very proper business suit.

For years, Tom had an affair with Kyra Hollis, a young employee who lived in his home, alongside his wife and two children. Three years after that relationship ended, Tom -- now widowed -- hopes to resume the affair, but Kyra's life has changed considerably. Hare's play examines whether it is possible to rekindle romance in the face of major change.

Marianne Angelella's Kyra is a proud, idealistic teacher, working in one poor, dangerous London neighborhood and living in another. Her asceticism (her tawdry flat has no central heat) is in direct contrast with Tom's opulent lifestyle (vacation home, chauffeur-driven Mercedes, etc.).

But though time and distance have widened the gulf between them, they appear to have had little in common -- except perhaps physical attraction -- from the start.

Hare is a playwright known for taking the moral high ground, yet he is far too smart to provide easy demarcations between right and wrong. Just as there are politicians who lead capable public lives and irresponsible private ones, so Kyra is a mass of contradictions, and her relationship with Tom is anything but simple.

Professionally, Kyra is committed to goodness and self-sacrifice -- teaching underprivileged children. Privately, however, she seems to have seen nothing wrong with betraying Tom's wife, whom she considered a close friend; leaving as soon as the affair was discovered was presumably a sufficient moral gesture.

The script is rife with lectures. After one of Kyra's especially impassioned ones, Tom quite correctly remarks, "I needed that lecture." Thankfully, director Feinstein manages to mine the humor in the text.

Both lead performers have a good handle on their characters, although on the second night of the run, Campion occasionally seemed a bit hesitant. There's also a fine performance from Morgan Stanton as Tom's concerned, 18-year-old son, a young man who ultimately seems to relate better to Kyra than his father does.

Fell's Point Corner is presenting this play in the midst of what could be called "The David Hare Season on Broadway." "The Blue Room," his adaptation of "La Ronde" starring Nicole Kidman, has already arrived; yet to come are his one-man show, "Via Dolorosa," and "Amy's View," starring Judi Dench. "Skylight" was produced on Broadway in 1996, but this is its first local staging, and though the subject matter is often heavy slogging, Feinstein's production does justice to the work of this serious-minded, complex British playwright.

Show times at Fell's Point Corner, 251 S. Ann St., are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 14. Tickets are $10 and $11. Call 410-276-7837.

Classical acting

Washington's Shakespeare Theatre has joined forces with George Washington University to create the country's first graduate program dedicated exclusively to classical acting. The Shakespeare Theatre Academy for Classical Acting will be a one-year course, culminating in a Master of Fine Arts degree.

The faculty will be drawn from both institutions and headed by Michael Kahn, artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre and director of the drama division New York's Juilliard School, and Leslie Jacobson, head of the George Washington University department of theater and dance.

"ACA is entirely committed to training tomorrow's classical actors today," Kahn said in a statement announcing the new program.

Faculty from the Shakespeare Theatre include: Philip Goodwin, Edward Gero, Floyd King and Ted van Griethuysen, all members of the cast of the current production of "King John," as well as Wallace Acton, Helen Carey and Francelle Stewart Dorn.

Course work will encompass acting, stage combat, movement, voice and speech, text study and the Alexander Technique, and two full productions will be staged at the academy. Classes will be held at the Shakespeare Theatre's studios in its new administrative office building in a former movie theater at 516 Eighth St., S.W.

The new program is separate from and in addition to the Shakespeare Theatre's long-standing undergraduate acting internships with the University of South Carolina.

Enrollment in the new academy will be limited to 24 students, and applications will be accepted from Sept. 1 to Dec. 15. The first class is scheduled to enter in June 2000 and graduate a year later. Tuition will be $24,000. For more information, call 888-222-7004.

Another `Riverdance'

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