BWW Reviews: OUR NEW GIRL is Only Scantly Thrilling

June 10
10:32 PM 2014

The brief opening scene of Nancy Harris' Our New Girl, described by the Atlantic Theater Company as a psychological thriller, contains one of those chilling moments that causes audience members to impulsively gasp, avert their eyes or feel the tingle of their own hairs standing on end.

It immediately leaps into a confrontation scene that heightens interest in where exactly the Irish playwright is going. Alas, by the play's unclear conclusion it seems that she's going nowhere thrilling and perhaps only a tad psychological.

Taking place in the kitchen a well-off British couple (fine work by set designer Timothy R. Mackabee), the evening concerns the troubled relationship between plastic surgeon Richard (CJ Wilson) and his wife, Hazel (Mary McCann), a former lawyer struggling to make a profit with her at-home business selling imported olive oil. (The increasing abundance of boxes of the stuff comes off as an attempt at a running gag.)

While away on a charitable mission in Haiti, Richard has arranged for a young Irish nanny, Annie (Lisa Joyce), to help the pregnant Hazel look after their troubled young son, Daniel (Henry Kelemen).

Daniel is an emotionally guarded little boy who does a lot of quiet observing and acts out on what he perceives. Eventually it becomes apparent that being lonely for his father's attention and knowing that it's his business to heal scars is a dangerous combination.

Though Harris' dialogue is sharp and interesting, her plot moves slowly into the expected clichés that accompany the presence of a pretty young nanny assimilating into a new household. The pivotal scene that changes relationships requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief and while the playwright dangles many possibilities in front of us, the second act fizzles out into an unlikely conclusion.

Director Gaye Taylor Upchurch and her fine cast draw up as much tension as can be mustered and ten-year-old Kelemen makes a very good stage debut with his disturbing, sullen performance, but Our New Girl fails to satisfy.

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