Saturday September 1, 2012

HUDSON, N.Y. -- The three characters in Kieron Barry’s compelling new play, "Tomorrow in the Battle," -- which is being given a spellbinding world premiere at Stageworks Hudson -- are dancing on the edge.

Simon (Timothy Deenihan), a cautious, play-it-safe renowned heart surgeon, is in a torrid affair. His lover, Jennifer (Danielle Skraastad), whom he meets by chance at an opera, is the bright, engaging, sexy associate of a young financial wunderkind who is making an international name for himself. Simon’s wife, Anna (Celia Schaefer), is a civil servant in Britiain’s Ministry of Defense who has uncovered a significant problem with a newly purchased key component to Britain’s nuclear missile system and is caught between telling a committee of Parliament the truth or, at the direction of her boss, lying. And while her husband’s illicit affair occupies more of his time, thoughts and energies, Celia wallows in sexual fantasies about her husband’s close friend and colleague, to the point that she begins to consider how to transform fantasy into reality.

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Lies build upon lies, deceit builds upon deceit; heretofore morally unchallenged consciences wrestle with moral and ethical dilemmas; indeed, virtually throw principles to the wind, almost on impulse.

None of them has any place to turn. Anna, who has always valued Simon’s opinion and insight, finds him distracted and unapproachable; absent figuratively and literally.

Simon undergoes a sexual reawakening as a result of his affair. He becomes reckless in his public behavior and develops a heady, perilous disregard for the ethics of his profession and the skills that have made him among the foremost in his field; skills that will be sorely tested as he prepares to transplant a heart into a 10-year-old boy.

Jennifer takes too much for granted, especially in a career that finds her joined at the hip to a business partner whose career, along with hers, will take a dramatic and unexpected turn during a visit to the New York Stock Exchange.

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"Tomorrow in the Battle" is constructed as a series of interlocking narratives that shift back and forth among Barry’s three characters. The structure creates a degree of clinical response to the events in these characters’ lives. At the same time, Barry never wallows in bathos or melodrama. This is a sly, ingeniously crafted piece in which Barry carefully, patiently drops a pebble here, a pebble there into this pond and then waits as the individual ripples gather into one shattering tidal wave.

Laura Margolis has mounted "Tomorrow in the Battle" with disarming simplicity and directed with sharp instincts and a keen feel for the treacherous undercurrents that flow beneath this oh-so-mannered British surface. She also has assembled a first-rate ensemble of actors who are keenly attuned, each of them, to the delicate nuances of this quietly devastating play. In a summer that’s been notable for uncommonly strong individual and ensemble performances, "Tomorrow in the Battle" stands very tall indeed.