In this 2008 offering, making its U.S. debut, British playwright Stephens almost seamlessly blends the traditional well-made play with a more angular, riddling narrative approach. At its heart, this story of three pivotal days in the life of the eponymous Harper (Thulin) is a family drama, complete with secret revelations and hard-earned truth-telling. For much of the way, though, the piece wanders through Harper’s picaresque and oblique encounters with baffling characters, from her bizarre, Internet-obsessed boss Elwood Barnes (Alex Gillmor) to the over-chatty social worker (Julia Siple) who informs her of her father’s death. Harper Regan has its missteps: Did the caddish journalist (Jonathan Edwards) whom Harper encounters in a pub, snorting coke before noon and thuggishly molesting her, really have to be a Holocaust denier, too? But Stephens manages to create a richly compelling world, recognizable in its strangeness, its depressive contours pierced by violence and beauty.
It’s the kind of play tailor-made for Steep’s gifted ensemble. The action unfolds as a series of two- and three-person scenes, whose subtle tonal variations Witt orchestrates handily, despite occasional lapses in the actors’ London and Mancunian accents. Most notable is the production’s comfort with the play’s stutters and silences: the gleeful power game of Barnes’s silent count to 30, the quiet disconnections that signal the rifts in Harper’s marriage. Thulin marvelously inhabits the awkward and reticent figure at the piece’s center, drifting through a traumatic inner landscape toward a final, ambiguous self-assertion.