Theater Review: Harper Regan, by Simon Stephens

Theater Review Harper R

Harper Regan By Simon Stephens Translated and directed by Oded Kottler Gesher Theater November 29 Harper Regan (Liora Rivlin) wants time off to visit her dying father. Elwood Barnes (Dudu Niv), her thick-skinned workaholic boss, says no. When she gets home that evening, it's the same-old, same-old from emotionally hunched husband Seth (Dov Glikman) and rebellious teen daughter Sarah (Lucy Dubinchik). Harper runs, telling nobody where she's going. Her two-day odyssey takes her from her London suburb to her native Stockport, near Manchester, and back home. On the way she encounters strange men, one in a pub, another in a hotel room, confronts the mother (Fira Kantor), who she hasn't seen in two years, and learns some troubling truths. "What kind of a name is Harper?" is a recurring question that really asks "what kind of life is this?" And she has no answer; Harper perches uneasily on her life and if she returns home, it is not so much that she has found answers but that she has redefined the question. "Regret poisons," she says. Michael Karamenko's prison-like set of grey/brown walls, apertures and sliding panels complements the characters' mental agoraphobia as they skirt, evade and hide their own realities, with the recurring frieze of a child jumping rope providing an ironic counterpoint. This is a dream role for an actress, but the talented Liora Rivlin is here oddly monochromatic, as though the things happening to Harper are occurring only on the outside. Altogether, the production lacks nuance with everybody gabbling their lines at top speed. Harper Regan is supposed to prod and poke. Its words and ideas must have time to register, and Kottler has not allowed for that, which is a pity. Glikman and Dubinchik are effective as husband and daughter, Kantor makes a wonderfully smug mother, and, as Barnes, Niv injects an intriguing menace. As Tobias Rich, a teenager on the threshold of life, Daniel Tscharnish is appealing, but it is Boris Achanov who takes the honors. His Duncan Woolley, the mother's second husband, has the breadth and life the rest of the production lacks.