Challenging 'Skylight' shines at Horizon Theatre


Reproduced by permission from: SOUTHERN VOICE FEBRUARY 19/1998

It's hard to say precisely when The Horizon Theater's version of David Hare's SKYLIGHT segues from potent to downright masterful, but it slowly, subtly, turns into a devastating piece of theater.

Tom (Chris Kayser) and Kyra (Carolyn Cook) met almost a decade ago when she began a job as a waitress at his restaurant. Although she was much younger (and poorer) than he, the two began an affair shortly afterward under the nose of Tom's wife Alice. When Alice found out six years later, Kyra fled. Despite the fact that she has stayed in touch with Tom's son Edward (Allen Jeffrey Rein), Kyra and Tom have not spoken since her departure.

Years later, after Alice has died from an illness, Tom decides to visit

Kyra to try and make peace and win her back. Kyra I)as become an inner-city teacher and has a small, eternally frosty flat in London. Their first meeting is an awkward one, at best, with Tom chastising Kyra on everything from her location, to her job, to the way she prepares her spaghetti. The two spend their time engaged in small talk, skirting around bigger issues, afraid of letting the other see their pain and hurt. When Kyra and Tom are finally able to reconcile, it's a very moving moment. In the second act, the demons,. emerge, and the two clear the air and spew out their pent-up venom. Hare's script bristles with intelligence and fine comic and dramatic banter. It's no surprise that he can write such memorable characters arid dialogue, and manage to combine it with a pofifical point of view. It is even more impressive that he can do it at such a consistently high level over the years, from "Plenty" and "Racing Demon" to films such as "Damage" and "Strapless."

Tom and Kyra, despite their passion, represent opposing sides of the scale, economically and emotionally. Tom's philosophy is that those who have money, deserve it, while those without are inferior. Kyra is the bleeding heart of the two, believing in the goodness of everyone. ("If I could be reborn, I'm not sure Julie Andrews would be my first choice," says the ever-sarcastic Tom).

Director Lisa Adler handles the first act well, but even she can't overcome a few loose moments in Hare's script. At first, the two main characters slowly dance around the other, talking about everything but their feellings-at times the exchanges are disengaging. Adler, though, makes the second act an absorbing, intensely personal run-in.

Cook and Kayser, who have worked together for years at other local theatrical companies and at their French company, Theatre du Reve, superbly complement each other.

Kayser, whose range continues to amaze--from an affable Everyman in dating hell in last fall's "Jack and Jill," to Scrooge in The Alliance's "A Christmas Carol"-shows us the spark in a man consumed by arrogance and material profit.

Cook has a nugget of a role and tears into it. Her Kyra is a proud, headstrong woman, fiercely established and where she is, in love with Tom, but not able to handle him. The actress has a flawless monologue near the end, deriding the politicians and journalists who criticize the likes of schoolteachers, social workers and probation officers, while Kyra and her colleagues are actually in the trenches, lending a hand. It's one of the finest female theatrical performances in recent memory.

If you like challenging theater, work that is more concerned with character than plot, "Skylight" is a must-see. It's an expertly acted, impassioned production, given a thorough polish by seasoned pros.

Specific, Universal.

A Hare-sharp look at love


Reproduced with Permission from the Atlanta Journal/Constitutional

It's a scene we know so well, from first- or secondhand experience, that it makes us smile, nod, maybe even cringe. It begins this way: A man returns unannounced to his former flame He's neither greeted with open arms nor booted out. As the nigh wears on, the old lovers perform the dance of the unspoken question - better known as "Will we or won't we?"

It's a universal experience that David Hare captures in "Skylight" from the moment that Tom Sergeant (Chris Kayser) walks into the funky London flat of Kyra Hollis (Carolyn Cook) and calls to her in the shower while he gingerly snoops through her mail for clues to her romantic life.

It's an accomplishment just to tell this offbeat love story well, as Hare does, but in fact it's only the beginning - the outer skin of the onion. As he did in "Racing Demon" - his stunning state-of-Protestantism report performed last season - Hare slices through layer after layer of up-to-the-minute conflicts - male vs. female, conservative vs. liberal, realist vs. idealist. The issues are all wrapped around each other, smoldering within the love affair, the ashes that might be embers.

Once again, Horizon Theatre Company delivers a Hare London/Broadway hit with authority, in a Lisa Adler production of adequate designs and beautifully orchestrated acting.

Tom pulled himself up - with help from Kyra, a former business partner- to become a top restaurateur, a hard-shelled master of the hard sell. As a wary

Kyra cooks spaghetti (with real aromas wafting from a real Istove), Tom roams her flat in a style between stalk and swagger. He cavalierly rips liberals, support groups ("It's like talking to Moonies!"), spirituality ("A wishy-washy word - what does it actually mean?"), do-gooders and teenagers ("pod people"), a group in which he lumps his son, Edward.

What Tom doesn't know is that Edward (the able Allen Jeffrey Rein) has secretly visited Kyra to tell her that a woman dear to them all - his mother, Tom's wife, Kyra's friend - has died. The door is open for Tom and Kyra to rekindle the forbidden affair that Kyra had cut off three years before.

But can an affair resume when one lover is as transformed as Kyra? What she struggles to explain to Tom - in the course of a snowy night and a funny, searing heart-to-heart - is that she turned her back on his glittering world not purely out of guilt, but because her soul hungered for something. And she's found it: as a poor-but-proud urban teacher. She has chosen to become every thing Tom mocks.

So why, Hare provocatively asks, does Kyra seem so much happier than Tom - and what is the lesson there?

There is almost no role - from a suave tap dancer to the satanic Roy Cohn - that Chris Kayser can't play. But even he, who can't help being graceful, was not the best choice to play a corporate Visigoth warrior who should fill a room with raw life force. It's as though, in casting, Adler didn't fully grasp the nature of the character. Still, Kayser does a fine job under the circumstances, etching Tom with raffish charm, troubled undercurrents.

Kyra is one of those too rare Carolyn Cook roles (remember "My Children! My Africa! "?) that reminds you just what a palette of emotions, what a complete inner life this actress can bring to the stage. Her Kyra is vulnerable but strong, sensual but high-minded, scared but brave. In sum, the kind of heronie wecan believe in and follow on the rising road that Hare has mapped to our better selves