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Orange County

Review: On Theater: Revived romance ignites ‘Skylight’ in Anaheim

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Jessica Erin Martin (Kyra) and Steve Marvel (Tom) star in David Hare’s “Skylight,” which is playing through May 19 at Chance Theater in Anaheim.
(Photo by Doug Catiller, True Image Studio)

Opposites may attract, but can they truly connect? British playwright David Hare posed that question back in 1995 with “Skylight,” a searing and often comedic drama currently enjoying a revival at Anaheim’s Chance Theater.

The opposites here are a thirtyish London schoolteacher, Kyra, and a fiftyish restaurant developer, Tom, with whom she once lived and loved until his wife, now deceased, discovered the affair.

It’s been about three years since they last connected and their impromptu reunion in her modest flat stirs the traditional English conflict over differences in class. He’s wealthy, she’s barely making ends meet, but can one of them change his or her attitude for the other?

At the Chance, under the direction of Oanh Nguyen, actors Jessica Erin Martin and Steve Marvel attack the play with zeal and conviction, each staking a firm claim to their passionate views of life. Both are riveted in their beliefs, yet they are inexorably drawn to one another.

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Martin delivers a richly textured performance in support of the “normal people” in society, clinging to her humble values as she cooks a real pasta meal on stage. Her approach is sharp and skillful as she punctures his upper-class attitudes with a basic, humanitarian outlook.

By contrast, Marvel adopts a regal, domineering attitude that deflates her positions as he pursues a reconciliation. While strong in the first act, his performance becomes uneven in the second as if the actor is uncomfortable performing while barefoot.

There is a third character, somewhat superfluous, in the form of Tom’s grown son Edward, who shows up early in the first act ranting and raving and late in the second jolly and amiable. Sam Bullington handles this strange assignment with aplomb, displaying wildly disparate attitudes.

Equally confusing is the play’s title. It’s mentioned in passing that Kyra’s former living quarters in Tom’s home contained a skylight, but it’s a throwaway line at best.

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Still, “Skylight” is effective, often mesmerizing, in its blending of opposite attitudes and philosophies. Bruce Goodrich’s simplistic set design and Matt Schleidcher’s mood lighting effects combine to enrich the production’s atmospheric flavor.

Compelling yet complex, “Skylight” spotlights two exceptionally capable performances in a powerful revival at the Chance Theater.

IF YOU GO

What: “Skylight”

Where: Chance Theater, 5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim

When: Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m. through May 19

Cost: $20 to $39

Information: (714) 455-4212 or ChanceTheater.com

Tom Titus reviews local theater for TimesOC.

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