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BWW Reviews: Hare's SKYLIGHT Talks a Good Game

A fellow trying to win back the mistress that his now-deceased wife made him dump three years ago should know better than to criticize the woman's cooking, especially if he's a famous and wealthy restauranteur and she's a barely-getting-by teacher just trying to prepare a modest spaghetti Bolognese for dinner.

Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan (Photo by John Haynes)

But David Hare's humorous 1995 drama of a mismatched relationship, Skylight, isn't exactly about people making wise decisions.

The acting is exceptional in director Stephen Daldry's intimate West End transfer, where Kyra and Tom's cerebral joust takes on Shavian shades with its discussions of class, wealth and moral values.

Set designer Bob Crowley does a terrific job depicting the dreary flat where Kyra lives in the London equivalent of a low cost housing project. The windows of multiple flats, presumably of identical dreariness, are seen upstage.

A surprise visit from Tom's son, Edward (very good Matthew Beard), who saw Kyra as a big sister who abandoned him, sets up the eventual appearance of his dad.

When Bill Nighy enters as Tom, it's with the strutting confidence of a man who sees himself as the wealthy prince who won't have much trouble convincing the fair maiden to let him take her away from her miserable life to one of comforts.

Matthew Beard (Photo by John Haynes)

His manner is less than charming. Sensing a bit of guilt and self-loathing in Kyra's decision to take a low-paying job helping children in underserved communities, he quips that she's trying as hard to stay in her modest housing situation as others are to get out of it.

Carey Mulligan's prematurely world-weary Kyra isn't falling for it at first. Whatever love she may have once felt for Tom is tempered by her lack of respect for his belief that creating wealth is all he needs to do to better the world.

Though Tom is written to be older than Kyra, the gap created by the 35+ years between Nighy and Mulligan becomes a frequent reminder of just how young she was and how old he was when their affair first developed, adding a predatory creepiness to his attempts to charm.

The two do very fine work individually, but there is no heat between them when the script demands it, and since the audience has never seen them as a functioning couple, there is no investment in the outcome the evening will have on their relationship.

What does create sparks are the still-topical arguments regarding the responsibility that comes with wealth and the realistic value of service. Admirably, Hare keeps the conversation balanced and while emotions may be kept in check, Skylight never ceases to talk a good game.

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From This Author Michael Dale