The Vertical Hour by David Hare at Lantern Theater

           “The Vertical Hour” is a play by the renowned playwright, David Hare, written in 2006, that begins in the office of Yale Professor Nadia Blye. She is confronting a student regarding what she thinks is his naïve view of the political process. The final scene is of Blye with a different student, who also provides a challenge to her intellect. But the core of this story is about Blye, her fiancé Philip, and Philip’s father Oliver.

            Philip has brought Nadia home to Britain to meet his father, from whom he has been somewhat estranged. His parents had had an open marriage for a while, but it got out of hand and they separated. We learn of the intricacies of that marriage as well as the complications of the relationship between Nadia and Philip. Underneath the discussions of a country’s commitment to support and even intervene in another country’s affairs (the Iraq War) are the issues of what attracts people in a relationship.  

            The play poses a myriad of questions that each character is trying to come to grips with. But a main issue is what creates an attraction between any two people. What strengths do we need in a partner to make a relationship work, whether it be between a man and a woman or a father and a son? Is what we think we are attracted to what we really want? And how much can we change, to adjust how we think and what we feel? These themes exist both on the personal level and on the larger political arena.

            They talk about materialism, they talk about Sarajevo, they talk about Iraq. But what will they do? They note that it is often easier to do nothing. And in this play, each character seems to be running. But is it toward something or away from it?

            Genevieve Perrier is outstanding as the idealistic young professor, sincere, yet convincing in an elegantly understated portrayal of Nadia. Joe Guzman’s Oliver is more pompous and harder to take. But we watch as each tries to win over the other, as Philip (Marc LeVasseur) seems to disappear into the backdrop of the lives of his girlfriend and his father.

            Unfortunately, though it is a fascinating intellectual exercise at times, the play often slips into long, talky, boring arguments and discussions which take place while the three sit or stand or just walk about the stage. Often, the dialogue is predictable and dull. Perhaps more dynamic interaction by director Kathryn MacMillan, might have enlivened the script, but I’m not sure. It’s not Hare’s best play.

“The Vertical Hour” at Lantern Theater Co., St. Stephen’s Theater, 10th & Ludlow Streets, Phila., PA 19107, 215-829-0395, Thru February 16, 2020.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: