Regional Reviews: San Francisco
American Premiere of Wesley Moore's A Reckoning is a Challenging Father/Daughter Confrontation
A Reckoning had its world premiere at the Soho Theatre in London in April 2003 and starred Jonathan Pryce and Flora Montgomery. Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph called it "one of the most powerful and provocative new American plays to have opened since David Mamet's Oleanna." Richard Seyd directed the play in London and does the same here at the Magic. Many London critics loved the play since it points out the foibles of our ways, involving a parent's relationship with his offspring. In what other country would a daughter sue her father for a non-emotional relationship when growing up?
A Reckoning deals with "false memory syndrome," which was popular in the late 20th century. Adult women were suing their fathers for what they believed were sexual abuses during their childhood. Many made the headlines, and many of the abuses just did not happen. Although this play does not deal with sexual abuse, the question here is who is telling the truth as we watch six rapid scenes between father and daughter during the 85-minute one-act piece.
The confrontational drama is set in San Francisco where widower Spencer (Kevin Tighe), a highly successful architect, is visited by his daughter Irene (Jennifer Tighe) on the first anniversary of her mother's death. Irene is in her late 20s and has been in therapy for almost a year. She has come to the father's high rise apartment because her therapist has dug up some disturbing memories involving the father. The father denies the allegations. He is outraged about certain memories and says they never happened or they happened in a far different way.
A Reckoning feels like a drama by numbers as each scene goes by swiftly, like a television movie of the week. Irene takes Spencer to court with unsurprisingly devastating results. Much of the dialogue goes into overstated rhetoric. The conversations become cumbersome and stilted, which may be one reason the British liked the drama so well. American ears are more accustomed to sharp confrontations such as David Mamet's Oleanna, and, though this drama has been compared to Mamet's work, it does not approach the masterpiece.
Kevin Tighe (Skull in Connemara at the Roundabout, Mourning Becomes Electra at Long Wharf and many film roles) gives a measured performance as he gently goes from being breezy - when he describes living on the 20th floor of a high rise apartment as being "closer to God" - to being an emotionally lost individual. He has the more sympathetic role and one tends to believe his story rather than that of the daughter who seems a little neurotic. Jennifer Tighe (Collective Stories at Berkeley Rep, Closer at Mark Taper) suggests neurotic tendencies through the play, and Irene's "recollections" seem false. One has no sympathy for her as her driving motive is a gloomy malice. However, Jennifer portrays the character well.
Richard Seyd, who was the Associate Artistic Director of ACT from 1992-1995, keeps the actors from going overboard emotionally and keeps the six scenes moving rapidly and smoothly. John Lavovelli, the set designer, has made good use of the medium-size Sam Shepard Theatre stage with panels suggesting the apartments of the two characters, an outside lobby of a court room and the brick back structure of a "historical" office building in San Francisco.
A Reckoning will run through March 27 at the Sam Shepard Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Building D, Laguna at Marina Blvd, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-441-8822 or online at www.magictheatre.org The Hot House series will be back with three new plays starting April 23.