One boy hits another boy, breaking two of his teeth. The next day, the parents of the boy who was hit invite the parents of the hitter around to discuss the situation. Over the next two hours of this one act play, opened this week at the Gielgud Theatre on Shafesbury Ave., the situation deteriorates. The strain in marriages, parenting priorities, past histories, and the world at large show up as politeness dissolves in the face of true personalities. The play is all character study, held together with token plot, but is, nonetheless, a satisfying production. Janet McTeer plays a passionate do-gooder; Ken Stott, her husband is a hardware store owner who embraces his inner coarseness; Tamsin Greig is an uptight wealth manager who does what she ought, but doesn't necessarily like it; and Ralph Fiennes her husband, a lawyer who could care less about the whole meeting and spends most of the time glued to his mobile, helping with PR salvage for a dodgy pharmaceutical company.
The script is translated from the original French, and the play still still set in France. Characters address each other as "M'sieur" and "Madame" even though dialog is in English. These touches only occasionally distracted me, more often rooting the play in its location. I liked many of the ongoing themes, including an inspired use of a hamster. The satire was funny - the audience laughed a lot, whether or not the characters on stage had any reason to do so.
The set was dramatic, a cloud of red up into the eaves, a wall of cracks providing a strong diagona, defining the living room in which all the action occurs, and the strong contrast of the white and off-white sofa, chairs, tables, and tulips. The blocking was well done, a visual flow of changing alliances and interactions.
The play was good - satisfying - but not great. And I would have liked it a whole lot better if it had had no vomit; but then that's always true.