Simon Stephens, winner of the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, wrote Harper Regan some five years prior. The earlier effort describes relocated Manchester people of a class with whom the playwright was raised. Attitudes are authentic to geography and culture as well as the author’s imaginative characterization – i.e. everyone feels true. Dialogue is wonderful. Alas, individual scenes and included exposition is sometimes superfluous. Narrative sorely needs editing. Aside from this, the T. Schreiber production is excellent on all fronts.
In essence, this is a story of halting self discovery, an unwitting pilgrimage which stimulates change in outlook.
Maeve Yore and Jerry Topitzer
Harper (Maeve Yore), her genial husband Seth (effectively tenuous Richard Stables), both in their early forties, and their academically smart, yet Goth teenage daughter, Sarah (well calibrated Lauren Capkanis), have recently moved here. All are unsettled.
When her beloved father falls into a diabetic coma, Harper naturally requests a few days off from an administrative job she’s executed faultlessly since arrival. Her obtuse, self-serving boss, Elwood Barnes (infuriatingly real Jerry Topitzer), refuses to let her go on penalty of dismissal. Husband Seth is unemployed, perhaps unemployable, due to his inclusion on a national list of sexual offenders as a pedophile, charges Harper denies. She’s her family’s sole support. Responsibility sits heavy.
Lauren Capkanis; Richard Stables
Next thing we know, Harper’s at the hospital in Stockport, having left home telling no one where she’s going. Doctor? Nurse? Justine (an aptly insensitive Mega Grace) sits with the bereaved, but like many characters in this play, ends up rambling on about her own life.
Having missed the opportunity to tell her father she loved him, alienated from a mother (Margo Goodman) who apparently believed Seth guilty, causing a family rift, Harper is at loose ends in her old home town.
Exorcism of sorrow and frustration takes the form of almost picking up the somewhat younger Micky Nestor (a credible Ryan Johnston) in a bar, a gesture of unexpected violence, and having a trist with middle-aged stranger at a hotel. (Both of these encounters are deftly penned.) And finally, confronting her mother.
By the time Harper goes back home, she’s altered.
The play is sprinkled with politics and sexual innuendo, some of it seemingly without reason. Two young Arabs, Tobias (a first rate Mike Phillip Gomez), whom Harper meets on an embankment and with whom there’s palpable attraction and Mahesh (Vick Krishna), an assistant contractor working with her stepfather (John Fennessy) appear as reflections of time and place. At least three characters express vehement bigotry. Elwood Barnes inappropriately compliments his employee and refers to Harper’s daughter almost licking his lips, Harper’s sexual proclivity is variously tempted and indulged, a late moment of doubt about Seth’s innocence is unnerving.
Maeve Yore and Mike Phillips Gomez
Maeve Yore (Harper Regan) is flat out terrific. There isn’t a moment we don’t thoroughly believe every word and move, some of which are neither logical nor anticipated. Yore’s focus/stage presence makes even silence compelling. Emotions and thoughts are practically visible. Yore may be worth the play.
With great attention to detail, Director Terry Schreiber gives every character individual attributes. Seth’s immensely physical realization works splendidly for a man beneath whom the earth has shifted. Conversations are beautifully paced allowing for awkwardness and/or reflection. Stage use is organic and skillful.
Dialogue Coach Page Clements does a crackerjack job.
Minimal Set is cleverly conceived by George Allison using mostly blocks and boards.
Photo of Ryan Johnston & Maeve Yore at the bar- Gili Getz
All other Photos- Remy
Opening: Maeve Yore
T. Schreiber Studio for Theatre & Film presents Harper Regan by Simon Stephens
Directed by Terry Schreiber
The Gloria Maddox Theatre
151 West 26th Street 7th Floor
Through June 4, 2016