By FRANK RIZZO, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hartford Courant
November 5, 2013
The show: "Owners" at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven
What makes it special?: Early full length play by British playwright Caryl Churchill
First impressions: The political, social and gender-charged themes and daring imagination that make Churchill one of the leading theater writers are in evidence in this 1972 work. But the playwright hadn't quite mastered the economy of writing in this unfocused but still engaging effort that receives a satisfactory production at the Rep. But at nearly two-and-a-half hours running time, the eccentric and symbolic characters wear out their welcome by intermission.
What's it about? If Ayn Rand decided to become a realtor she'd be Marion (Brenda Meaney). Forceful, single-and-self-minded, insatiable and indifferent to others, she's the type of dynamo that Margaret Thatcher would love, especially when she says things like: "We men of destiny get what we're after even if we're destroyed by it."
"We men?": Savvy gender point here. Possession is historically a male right, and playfully put on its head here.
Sounds like a great character: She is but rather a one-note one.
And the plot?: The real estate market in London is hot, hot, hot and Marion is making a killing. Meanwhile, her neglected husband Clegg (Anthony Cochrane), a butcher who longs for the day when the man of the house was master of his mate, spends much of his day fantasizing about her demise. That's something Marion's protégé Worsely (Joby Earle) understands, having failed at suicide on multiple occasions — a running gag that has the character increasingly diminished.
When Marion is blocked by her efforts to purchase a coveted property owned by Lisa (Sarah Manton) and Alec (Tommy Schrider), Marion's former lover who has found bliss in his zen-like life of dispossession, the realtor uses extreme measures, taking over the couple's baby to get what she wants.
Sounds disturbing: That's the right word given Churchill's sharp-eyed take on theater of the absurd. But the playwright hadn't quite found her own voice or mastered her craft that she would later demonstrate in works like "Mad Forest," "Serious Money," "A Number," "Cloud Nine" and "Top Girls''.
Though her bold fearlessness is clearly in evidence here, other writers come to mind as well: the spirit of anarchy of Joe Orton, the shock effects of Edward Bond and the capitalism-is-evil theme of Bertolt Brecht.
And the production?: Under Evan Yionoulis' direction, the cast performs well, especially Meany's mad Marion and Earle as her quirky associate. Joel Abbott's sound design and Seth Bodie's costumes nicely evoke the era, too.
Who will like it?: Churchill fans eager to see how the writer first explored her art and craft. Century 21 agents. Donald Trump.
Who won't?: Those fans who admire the economy of her more accomplished works.
For the kids?: The anti-materialism theme may attract some teen rebels.
Twitter review in 140 characters or less?: Possession is power in interesting-but-entangled early work by a future great playwright.
Thoughts on leaving the parking lot?: Presenting early and imperfect work of great playwrights is always a noble pursuit — and what better venue than a university theater to do that? But it often takes an inspired director and cast to transcend the material's shortcomings.
The basics: Continues at the 1120 Chapel St. theater through Nov. 16. Running time is 2 hours and 25 minutes, including one intermission, Performances are Tuesdays to Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m. and an additional matinee on Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 to $98. Information : 203-432-1234 and www.yalerep.org.
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