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St. Louis by Richard Green

Skylight
The West End Players Guild

Skylight
Robert Ashton and Renee Sevier-Monsey
In the 1980s, Kenneth Lonergan's This Is Our Youth captured audiences with its themes of drugs and parental neglect. Ten years later, David Hare's Skylight could just as easily have been called This Is Our Middle-Age, for its complex view of modern adults.

But Mr. Hare went for the metaphor, in titling his play of philosophical arguments, which does (in fact) lend the script a little more stature, whether it needs it or not. Director Sean Ruprecht-Belt also confers a reliable, low-key realism on his actors that easily draws us into the bickering of a bright English schoolteacher and her former lover, and into the contest of Labor against Tory as well. That may not pluck your heartstrings right away, but these two hours and twenty minutes fly by, thanks to a captivating performance by Renee Sevier-Monsey as the teacher in a desperate part of London. The American-born actress quietly out-Englishes even her British-born stage partner Robert Ashton: curling up in a kitchen chair like a beautiful cat; or sitting on the floor, seeming to flounce all the way up to her eyeballs, as she artfully comes to rest at his feet.

In the moments before the show, the director compared Skylight to Shaw, and from the look of it, David Hare loves a good argument just as much as the author of Major Barbara. Only occasionally are we aware of procedural gimmicks: the fictional pasta on the kitchen stove that must be ruined just as the intermission is comes 'round the bend; or the pair of teacups that Kyra (the schoolteacher) genially lays on for the irascible millionaire who's berated her for the past 90 minutes. Otherwise, it's a great chance to see fine actors at work and to think about how we ended up where we are as a culture.

The play gallops through a series of wry stand-up routines targeting everything from public transport to socialized grieving, in diatribes that are almost always breezy and incisive. Mr. Hare afflicts the left and the right equally, stitching his polemics together with Kyra's strange and sometimes painful relationship with Tom, her ex-lover (Mr. Ashton). Coming to us from 1995, the characters are unencumbered by the tragedies of 9/11 and 7/7: bantering and speechifying instead about how they make do, and what the government does with its share of the proceeds.

The "skylight" of the title refers to Tom's wife and her view of local birds as she lies on her deathbed. If there is, in fact, a metaphor to be wrung from that, I'll take a stab and say these two survivors must be the birds that come and go, taking perch just long enough to sing an ideological mating song: boasting obliquely of their strengths as males and females.

Jared Nell does nicely as Tom's teenaged son, giving the role of Edward just the right amount of impetuousness and uneasiness in his rare appearances. In the end, he becomes the stand-in for both of his parents, as Kyra reconciles all her life's choices in a simple but effective final scene.

Through November 18, 2007 at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 North Union Ave., two blocks north of Delmar Blvd. For information, call (314) 367-0025, or visit them on-line at www.westendplayers.org.

Cast
Kyra: Renee Sevier-Monsey
Edward: Jared Nell
Tom: Robert Ashton

Crew
Director: Sean Ruprecht-Belt
Stage Manager: Pauline Ashton
Set Design: Nicholas Uhlmansiek
Lighting Design: Anthony Anselmo
Sound Design: Leonard Marshall
Costumes: Teresa Doggett
Set Dec/Props: Lynn Rathbone
Light Board: Emory Miko
Sound Board: Sarah Boslaugh
Deck Hand: Kate Makela
Brochure/Poster Design: Marjorie Williamson
House Manager: Dorothy & Jerry Davis
Box Office: Eleanor Mullin


Photo: Teresa Dogget


-- Richard T. Green

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