Review: ‘Moment’ at The Studio Theatre

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Family dramas are not rare; in fact, they are abundant; in fact, they dominate the theatrical landscape.

 Avery Clark and Emily Landham. Photo by Igor Dmitry.
Avery Clark and Emily Landham. Photo by Igor Dmitry.

Quality family dramas are rare, however: those that resound beyond their domesticity to signify the larger society, its ills, its struggles, its need for reconciliation.

Irish playwright Deirdre Kinahan’s Moment offers us, without hyperbole or melodrama, the family forever marked by the wound of anger and hostility; and as those wounds open in the play so they open across our violent landscape.

Intimate, funny, and insightful, Moment takes us into the psychological terrain, not of the perpetrator nor the victim of that aggression, but of the familial bystanders who, though invisible, nonetheless suffer lifelong consequences.

Unrecognized and untended, the bystanders’ wounds frequently metastasize into horrible scars that shape and reshape the lives of the wounded in incalculable ways.
Kinahan’s Moment gives us those scars with clarity, humanity, and endurance.

The family matriarch, Teresa Lynch, played with sweet, funny oblivion by Dearbhla Molloy, awaits the return of her prodigal son, Nial Lynch, the lean and empathetic Peter Albrink. Albrink’s Nial returns home with his new wife, Ruth, played with divine English sophistication by Hannah Yelland.

Nial’s violent past acts as the play’s volcanic center, and Albrink’s reformed but agitated portrayal hints at an explosive return.

On the other hand, Yelland’s Ruth and her myopic certainty regarding her husband’s secular (and artistic) redemption conjures images of novelist Norman Mailer’s certainty regarding convict-writer Jack Abbot’s “new man” status just prior to his next murder.

Meanwhile, Teresa Lynch’s daughter, Ciara, the together one of the family, has committed her life to taking care of her mother, and her own family, and her job, a cancer nurse. Caroline Bootle Pendergast does a masterful job giving this “non-dramatic” character, i.e., the person who keeps everything together, a vivid, engaging life. I found myself empathizing most with Ciara and her stoicism.

Teresa’s other daughter, Niamh, played with brooding pain by Emily Landham, gives the situation fire, as she has been most damaged, and haunted by her brother’s act of violence. You’ll watch her as you might a circus lioness, doing her best to behaved but knowing all along that at some point heR teeth must come down.

And then there is Dave Blake, the effervescent husband of Ciara, and Fin White, the “great guy” boyfriend of Niamh. Both men inject a fierce dose of positive energy into a family dynamic suffering from repressed despair and rage.

 Dearbhla Molloy, Caroline Bootle Pendergast, Peter Albrink, and Hannah Yelland. Photo by Igor Dmitry.
Dearbhla Molloy, Caroline Bootle Pendergast, Peter Albrink, and Hannah Yelland. Photo by Igor Dmitry.

Dave is played by the wonderfully animated Ciaran Byrne while Avery Clark embodies Fin.

Dave simply could not be more the cheer-everybody-up kind of guy, and Byrne gives him a jitterbug energy that is both invigorating and funny.

Clark, on the other hand, fills Fin with total inlovedness without ever making it obvious. You’ll find yourself saving, “If that guy ain’t in love, then he must be blind,” because he keeps giving to Ciara and she keeps taking away.

Finally, there is Mira Cohen’s Hilary, the childhood friend of Ciara, who is all young girl innocence with an overdose of flirtation. Cohen nails it.

Ethan McSweeny directed Moment, finding within it an exquisitely natural pacing, punctuated by sharp, clarifying “moments”.

The design team, led by Set Designer Debra Booth, fills the Milton Theatre with the Lynch family home, using its thrust for the central action and its wings for a sense of the whole. Scott Bolman’s lights and Palmer Hefferan’s sound enhance the action’s realism.

Philip Witcomb’s costumes add to the authenticity of each character, while Dialect Coach Gary Logan keeps everyone playing on the same Irish landscape.

Kinahan’s Moment, much like Albert Camus’ The Stranger, explores that inexplicable moment in which lives’ change forever, opening up the lifelong implications that a moment might produce.

The structures of our society–in this case, the patriarchal structures–will respond to the violently inexplicable in ways, though predicable, might not be preferable. After such moments we might yearn for the possibility of redemption, but a yearning does not a positive result make.

And Moment gives us its frank truth.

Running Time: 2 hours with an intermission.

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Moment plays through April 24, 2016 at The Studio Theatre – 1501 14th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 332-3300, or purchase them online.

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