Vincent River at Theatre Y | Theater review
A surprising, abstract staging serves Philip Ridley’s two-hander quite well.
Removing living-room dramas from their living-room context is a tricky affair. Imposed on a delicate emotional portrait, “high concept” can sometimes be translated as “monolithic, self-evident concept.” It’s to the great credit of Hawkins, then, that her production—which shifts River from an East End flat to an abstract white box—elevates the material in doing so.
Ridley’s 2000 play observes the moment when middle-aged seamstress Anita invites into her home Davie, the teenager who’s been lurking near her door since her gay son fell victim to a deadly hate crime. Over endless drinks, the two hash out the details of the murder, and Anita searches for Davie’s true connection to her son. Ridley plots the piece like a mystery, but the secrets become guessable in the third quarter. It’s here that Hawkins’s direction becomes vital, as she brazenly stages the shifting subtexts of the conversation (a grueling headstand from Davie as he strains to reveal hidden truths, for example). The device raises the script to a primal realm right when it needs it.
The production’s real coup is a closing monologue from Davie, which Hawkins choreographs as a mixture of brawling movement and unhinged jazz dance. Smith’s herky-jerky movement is peculiar and astonishing, as is Jones’s rapt, revolted stare. This final moment—from two exceedingly fine actors—could sell tickets all on its own.