Also see Fred's review of The Underpants
Marion (Brenda Meaney) is a nasty, mean-spirited woman who wants property: apartments, buildings, people. She is single-minded and cares not for her husband Clegg (Anthony Cochrane) who happens to be a butcher. He wishes that she would just die and mentions this more than once. Worsely (Joby Earle) is her protégé or wannabe and Marion utilizes him when she attempts to evict a younger people from their flat. Each time Worsely appears, he wears another bulky white bandage. It is apparent that, previously, he has tried to commit suicide. Actress Sarah Manton plays Lisa, at first pregnant, later not, and attractive to men. Tommy Schrider inhabits Alec, coupled with Lisa; yet, he, at one point, sleeps with Marion. Alec does show a most humane side when with his hospitalized Mum (Alex Trow). It is rare to find such beneficence within Churchill's play.
Carmen Martinez' eye-catching set design is singular. Providing mannequins and benefitting from a revolving stage, she holds attention throughout. It is director Evan Yionoulis's task to stay true to the text and that he does. Churchill is making social/political/economic statements and Yionoulis reveals that this a small group of haves and have-not individuals.
Watching the first hour or so of Owners is not the most pleasant of experiences. Clegg says, of his wife, "She can stand on her own two feet which is something I abominate in a woman." Marion, who wishes to be subordinate to no one and treats others as if they were potentially lucrative possessions, has a summative line: "Guilt is essential to progress." She wants the younger couple out of a place she owns so that she, Marion, can get rid of them and make a greater windfall. So it goeswithout much happiness to spread around. A ruthless soul, Marion bulls forward and nothing will deter her. Her manipulative persona is not to be emulated. Talk about ambition running wild!
While there isn't much levity in a play built around power and greed, occasionally the crisply written dialogue (even when the interface is no fun) leads to laughter. How? Something awful can be taken to be comedic. An observer's response is quick and genuine.
The six actors are period perfect and Seth Bodie's fine costuming assists. Brenda Meaney never wavers as the impossibly unlikable Marion. Call her Angry Owner. Sarah Manton, who excels as with her beleaguered presence as Lisa, runs through a wide array of emotions. Tommy Schrider's Alec is somewhat more dimensional than during early portions of the play.
Owners, to be sure, is of the early 1970s in England. Marion is a figuratively blind character for whom morality seems not to matter. She is stubborn and straight-ahead in her quest to acquire. The rich get richer.
Owners continues at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut through November 16th. For tickets, visit yalerep.org or call (203) 432-1234.
- Fred Sokol