The old adage, “love conquers all,” doesn’t wash with British playwright David Hare. His 1995 “Skylight” offers clear-eyed evidence that relationships can be torn asunder by rigidly held social and moral beliefs. Burning Coal Theatre Company’s thought-provoking staging lays out one couple’s seemingly irreconcilable differences.
Thirty-year old Kyra’s sparse apartment is in a low-income area where she teaches at-risk students. It’s far different from her years working for Tom, a rich restaurateur, with whom she had a long affair until his wife found out. Krya left abruptly and hasn’t seen Tom in four years.
Tom’s teenaged son Edward suddenly shows up, saying his father is in a bad way since his wife died and begs Krya to talk to Tom. Edward also asks why Krya left without warning but she won’t discuss it.
Later that night, Tom shows up unannounced and starts making overtures to Kyra, reminiscing about their wonderful times together. Soon they’re off to the bedroom, but when Tom suggests they get back together, Kyra insists she’s happier now in the real world rather than in Tom’s insulating wealth. He argues she’s wasting her talents and should let him take care of her.
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Hare gives both enough flaws to make it hard to take sides. Although his own political views are easily discerned in Kyra’s defense of people working with the poor and in Tom’s self-pity about being a slave to his company’s board, Hare astutely observes how we all stubbornly cling to our particular worldviews.
Emily Barrett Rieder’s Kyra is a well-drawn portrait of a conflicted soul, determined to hold up her ideals over the possibility she’s unable to commit to a relationship. Jerome Davis makes Tom boastful and insensitive on the surface but also reveals the character’s insecurities and difficulties expressing feelings. Matthew Tucker impresses with his limning of Edward’s cocky but vulnerable persona.
Elizabeth Newton’s apartment set is suitably minimal, backed by multiple window frames indicating a crowded tenement. A functioning kitchen, in which Krya prepares and cooks a spaghetti dinner, adds realism.
Director John Gulley doesn’t always keep the action taut in this lengthy script and there’s little heat in the couple’s reunion. But audiences should empathize with the pair’s moving attempts at allowing love to triumph, despite insurmountable odds.
Where: Burning Coal Theatre, 224 Polk St., Raleigh
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13-15, 20-22; 2 p.m. Oct. 16, 23
Tickets: $25 (seniors $20; students/military/all Thursdays $15)
Info: 919-834-4001 or burningcoal.org