Tuesday, May 18, 2010
At the beginning of Polly Stenham's That Face, a strangely passive teenage girl is tied to a chair and hooded. Two other teenage girls bicker about how her boarding-school hazing should go. The next scene takes place in a bedroom. An attractive middle-aged woman radiating "morning after" awakens in a messy bed in a messier room. We soon realize that there is also an attractive young man in the bed. The attractive middle-aged woman turns out to be a hard-core drunk, and the attractive young man turns out to be her son. One of the hazers from the first scene is her daughter. This unappetizing little family squabbles and yells and begs for forgiveness and acts out, and it's all deeply unpleasant. Of course, the measure of a play is not its pleasantness--artful writing, skillful acting, and catharsis can make even the ickiest show into a satisfying work of art. However, while That Face is reasonably well-written and well-acted, its limited strengths are not enough to mitigate the ugliness of the proceedings.