The Housekeeper at the P.A.C.

October 24, 2013

The spicy repartee spat between characters in Morna Reagan’s garrulous new work The Housekeeper needs to come from a place of desperation, where characters have sunk to such a low that needs must. They may act like they don’t care anymore, but we need to see and feel what is causing the rapidly expanding cracks in their facade. The fact that we don’t is chief cause for the sense of apathy this production leaves one with.

Mary is on the skids. She’s lost her job, she’s lost her house and she is about to lose her children. So she does the most obvious thing that comes to mind. She breaks in to the brownstone of a millionaire recluse hoping to squat there with her three young boys (what court wouldn’t be impressed). She’s at her wits end, which, played by Cathy Belton, involves the occasional shout and lots of pacing with her hands on her back or crossed in front of her chest.

But Mary hasn’t done her research. The building isn’t just home to aforementioned recluse, the hammer wielding ‘widow’ Beth (a typically reserved Ingrid Craigie). It’s also home to Beth’s husband, Hal (Robert O’Mahony) thought to be dead, but really crippled by a disease that has him perpetually coughing up fur balls and gesticulating wildly.

Over the course of the evening they toy with Mary, offering her separate routes to her salvation before pulling the rug out from under her and from one another. A supposed psychological game of cat and mouse where the morals of the latter is tested by the prizes of the rich, the hard wiring of character to stereotype means the dramatic tension never sparks and what were left with is a lot of talking and little emoting.

While O’Mahony gets caught playing a disease rather than a patient and Belton is stuck in a reactionary part, Craigie leaves it to hair and make up to suggest the effects being holed up in the caustic hell for fifteen years has had on her. She plays her characters social class but shows none of the scars that have left her in possession of just one need… revenge.

Elsewhere, words spring easily from the characters, learned by rote and prompted by cues rather than honest reactions to what’s been said or revealed to them. Regan has written some very pleasing bon mots but they jar as the characters seem to derive little pleasure or relief from saying them and the verbal shoot out on the page jams in the chamber of performance, with director Lynne Parker hemming the action in on either side of the stage and not pushing her actors out of their stock performances.


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