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4/3/15

In Which I Finally Find the Words to Praise All That is Skylight

As someone who has now seen Skylight three times over five months - twice during its National Theatre Live broadcasts, once live on Broadway - writing about this show is quite the task…one that has not gotten any less difficult. Further proof that I am not a professional journalist (HAHAHAHA, LOLZ!!) or even a capable writer when I am so hopped up on love for a show.


What I can say about Skylight - now open at the Golden Theatre - is that it tops my list of favorite revivals ever mounted on Broadway, joining the ranks of Death of a Salesman, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and The Glass Menagerie…good company, no?

Let’s try to break it down…so David Hare’s story, which is about Tom and Kyra reuniting three years after their affair was exposed, is mostly perfect. Timeless even…I’d have to comb through the show with a magnifying glass, but other then the sight of CDs and a CD Player (remember those spherically shaped thingies that had music on them), the show looked like it was written 20 minutes ago.

For the uninformed, Skylight debuted about 20 years ago. 20. Count em’…

What is doubly more impressive is that Hare wrote Skylight as a direct response to the Bourgeoisie vs. Proletariat Bohemian social standing, in which the former presided over the latter during the Margaret Thatcher years that occupied England up until the early-90’s (Tom is a stand-in for the upper-class while Kyra is a stand-in for the BoHo folk). You would think such a time-specific point of inspiration would result in a capsule show, but that is not the case. The class divide is translated through Tom and Kyra’s bickering over real estate, her school-teaching job compared to his businessman/restauranteur career, cheese (no really), politics, gender etc…and it adds a welcome amount of dimension to the mostly two-character set-up (only three take the stage all play, the third being Tom’s son Edward).

And timeless is a superlative that can be misconstrued as “old-fashioned” or “safe” and…well, the jury is still out on the former. Two people meeting up to hash everything out and fill in the audience on their journey is a trope going back decades. As far as “safe” though, the show is anything but. Maybe because the jokes land and Hare has a beautiful way with words. Maybe because you wish you could speak and engage in debate as eloquently as Tom and Kyra. Maybe because these characters at select points say exactly what the audience is thinking (or even anticipating), but their conversation and actions still have surprises in tow. Maybe because the contrast of comedy and morbidness and love and loathing are so euphoric, it can freeze you in your tracks much like Kyra’s under-heated flat.

Oh, right…it’s because of all of that.

It also doesn’t hurt to have Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy churn our stellar performances. And they had a lot working against them considering their age gap was sizable. Carey is 29, but looks like a 24-year-old ingenue and Bill Nighty, while dapper and even handsome in an aged-wine kind of way, looks late-50’s (he’s 65). The latter even played Tom during Skylight’s original rounds some 17 years ago…point being, you’ll forgive the the age gap of their love affair once the show hits its stride.

Besides, they are too spectacular in their roles that those who cast the show made a smart judgement call to pair the two of them on stage. He’s all buttoned up neuroticism, constantly sizing up Kyra and her lifestyle while trying to retain the upper hand in their dynamic. She can’t help but be intrigued by him, but more often then not, she’s tired of his bullshit and wants to move on with her life as she pleases. He’s dropping sarcasm by the minute and she goes back and forth between countering him and unveiling her wounded side as a result of their fallout. I could watch these two all day and so should you.

There isn’t a witty bon mot that Nighty can’t handle and his animated body language is an energetic train easy to get swept up in. Mulligan’s performance is very beautiful and quietly expressive, to the point where it is easy to forget she’s even acting at all. And her second-act monologue is the moment of the show we’ve been waiting for (padding her Tony reel in the process, go and GET. IT. GIRL!) in which she owns everything by telling Tom and all the haters a well-deserved, "FUCK OFF.” #HereForKyra

This write-up may have been several months in the making, but evidently, it doesn’t take long for me to wax rhapsodic about this show. It is also a powerful one when all of the elements - Bob Crowley and Natasha Katz’s terrific scenic and lighting designs respectively, Matthew Beard’s eerily on-point supporting turn as his character inhabits all of his father’s inflictions - come together in harmony. And like the show’s title and the metaphorical light that peers into the apartment, you can’t help but feel a glimmer of optimism for these characters you’ve grown attached to in such a short time. It’s quite a satisfying experience…when the lights went down for a final time, I didn't want it to end.

Remember when I totally called it with this:

I am ready to eat my words, but l am going to officially say this here and now: [Skylight] is gonna take Broadway by storm.

Gosh, I love it when I am right. Now, I’m eagerly awaiting the press release that Skylight will be extended by several weeks, if not, months. Don’t mind me, I’ll just be moving into the Golden Theatre. Can’t stop, won’t stop.


Photo Credit: Benjamin McMahon and John Haynes

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