Theatre on the Square's current offering, Skylight by David Hare, took home a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play last year. While having a Tony (or Oscar or whatever) as a credential may seem like an overwhelming endorsement, remember that there are often elements besides merely entertainment in the workings.
In this case, the play is hard. It's hard to watch because save for two brief scenes, the entirety of the show is up to two actors: Sarah McGee as schoolteacher Kyra and Bill Simmons as her much older and former boss/roommate/sugar daddy/lover Tom. The two have to carry the show through lots and lots (and lots) of talk, broken only by the previously mentioned scenes, in a single setting (a small flat in London). It's also hard to watch because at times, you want to slap one, two, or all three of the characters for being idiots/self-righteous/ political proselytizers/any number of other unbecoming human traits. And it's hard because at the core of all this talk is something everyone can relate to: the inability to move on. Including Tom's 18-year-old son, Edward (Tyler Ostrander), each character is stuck in the past for his or her own reason: wanting to atone, looking for absolution, or seeking a missing familial bond.
Simmons as the bombastic Tom looks overly dramatic in contrast to McGee's stark lack of emotion. While a case could be made that she is showing restraint in the face of unbridled narcissism, the two feel unnaturally unbalanced when viewed as a "couple." She finally lets loose a bit in the second act, perhaps driven by the character's guilt over committing the same act that caused her to flee Tom's home. However, that same contrast permeates the entire show: fidelity versus adultery, poor versus rich, nurture versus abandonment. Moreover, Simmons swaggering allows for a few moments of levity in a long and sometimes ugly conversation about people and their motivations.
Overall, director Gari Williams had satisfyingly coaxed the cast — including the maudlin character of Edward, in which Ostrander embraces the typical mood swings of a teen, especially a damaged one — through this challenging show.
Through Feb 13, Theatre on the Square,
Christel DeHaan Main Stage,
627 Massachusetts Ave., $15-20