#REVIEW: “HARPER REGAN”
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
1996, I attended a screening at TIFF of a deliciously offbeat Canadian movie titled “Kissed”. Playing an embalmer in a funeral home who also dabbles in necrophilia, Molly Parker sizzled, justifiably winning a Genie (now the Canadian Screen Award) for best actress, and I have been following her career ever since. When it was announced that this remarkably gifted actress will “tread the boards” here in Toronto in a play written by the Olivier Award winning playwright Simon Stephens, I literally licked my lips in glee.
Playing at the Bluma Appel Theatre until March 22nd, HARPER REGAN tell the story of a woman who, once she learns of her father’s impending death, leaves her husband and daughter and goes on a journey of self-discovery.
Molly Parker is mesmerizing. In the first act, she brilliantly portrays the brittleness of her character – you almost feel she can be broken in half with a whisper of a wind. She is such a withdrawn, tightly wound character that she doesn’t sit in a chair, she shrinks into it – legs akimbo, heels bent and facing each other, her shoulders slumped as her hands tightly clutch her arms, hugging her chest. After a shocking, liberating moment of violence, Harper re-emerges in the second act confrontational, flirtatious, assertive – she even smiles, albeit not 100% convincingly. It is a tour-de-force, spellbinding performance.
The issues I have with HARPER REGAN is not with the subject matter, though it really offers no new perspectives or insights as to WHY a person begins a journey of self-discovery. This is a distinctly British play with a precise cadence to the language, replete with colloquial references and slang words. Many of the actors in the supporting roles seemed flummoxed by making it feel and sound real without resorting to a Downton Abbey accent, though Philip Riccio (as a twitchy, coked-up, opinionated journalist Harper meets in a pub) and Lynne Griffin (as Harper’s mother) overcome the language issues and shine in their scenes. Izaak Smith is also memorable portraying two diverse characters. The minimalist set and “show-offy” curtain tricks are borderline pretentious and, whereas I think I understand why the director has the majority of the interactions between the characters with an enormous dead space between them, it does not make for a visually stimulating night at the theatre.
BUT, it IS Molly Parker that makes seeing HARPER REGAN an stimulating night at the theatre. The flaws in this production melt away whenever she is on the stage. To keep my Molly mojo going, I plan to binge-watch “House of Cards” to watch this mega-talented Canadian actress at work!
HARPER REGAN plays at the Bluma Appel Theatre from March 1 – 21, 2015.