What the Night Is For

Michael Weller

Comedy Theatre

(2002)

Review by Philip Fisher

After watching the first half of Michael Weller's play about reunited lovers, the answer to the title's implied question is undoubtedly sex. It seems that the intention of all involved is to raise the pulses of the male members of the audience through the wiles and cleavage of Melinda Metz. She is played by cult actress, Gillian Anderson, Scully from the X-Files. One imagines that classical actor, Roger Allam's character, Adam Penzius, is intended to do the same for women.

By the end, it is clear that while sex might be a pleasant way for at least one of the characters to while away a few minutes, talk and self-analysis have taken over as the raison d'être of the play. There is also a great sense of the remembrance of things past and in particular stolen pleasures.

The play is set on a revolve that moves the characters around a hotel room beautifully designed by Tim Hatley with a scarlet bed to the fore and deep blue depths.

The first two acts explore the uncertain reactions of two lovers, now long married who fondly remember an affair carried out after book circle some eleven years before. The feisty, unstable Melinda was "Emily Dickinson on ecstasy" while Adam who is something of a cross between Walter Matthau and (aurally) Groucho Marx, was apparently "the hottest, hippest happening architect from Tribecistan"!

They are torn between their instincts of loyalty and safety towards their current, dull partners on one hand and the chance of running away together on the other. Last time around, as it transpired they missed Elysium together by a single Friday. The regret is still there.

During the two and a half hours of the play, we see every aspect of the relationship and there is the feel of a twelve course banquet when you have eaten dinner already, as more and more plot twists are thrown in. The central idea could easily have come from a dozen Hollywood movies and any number of plays. While some of the ideas are interesting and the actors can be very seductive, the humour misses the target too often and some of the writing strives too hard for effect.

This is yet another star vehicle with some good lines and occasional insights that will entertain West End audiences, but it is rarely demanding. Too often, there is a feeling that neither director John Caird nor his cast are fully stretched. That may not matter as romantics and devotees of Miss Anderson wallow in nostalgia and fall desperately in love.

This review originally appeared on Theatreworld in a slightly different version.