12 April 2023
THE DRY HOUSE (Marylebone Theatre) Review

It is difficult to get into the substance of the play without ruining the two-three surprises Eugene O’Hare (who also directed) has in store for us here.  At its heart, the play’s main focus is on middle-aged Chrissy (tour de force by Mairead McKinley), who has been hitting the bottle extra-hard ever since the death of her daughter Heather (strong performance by Carla Langley).  Things have gotten so bad, that Chrissy’s sister Claire (ably played by Kathy Kiera Clarke) has arranged a spot at an alcohol recovery clinic for Chrissy and has now come over to ensure Chrissy doesn’t chicken out of going.

A superb set from Niall McKeever underscores the rock bottomness of the situation.  It’s first thing in the morning, and we have Chrissy polishing off a 6-pack of beer in a cluttered house amidst miscellaneous clutter, piles of laundry, and general dinginess.  Parts of the play are wonderfully multilayered:  the relationship between the two sisters, coping with death of a loved one, generational impact of alcoholism, perpetual inability to make good decisions.  McKinley and Clarke give their characters depth where the text itself lacks it and keep the audience engaged.

However, the play also goes off on random tangents that seem to have very little point other than being simple plot devices.  Chrissy’s recount of her one-night stand (to put it politely) is clearly there to make us feel sad, if a little grossed out, but, instead, it comes off as a fairly random way to push Chrissy toward an epiphany about her life.

To make it worse, toward the end of the play, we get a very lengthy monologue from Langley’s Heather that gives us a bit of context to anchor itself to her character and then drones on by way of O’Hare’s commentary about teenagers, online safety, and mental health.  It is unnecessary and massively detracts from everything good about the play.  By the end of the unbearably long and repetitive speech, I felt that it’s the alcoholism that was a plot device just so that O’Hare could have a platform to talk about problems with social media.  That’s called a “bait and switch”, and I seriously unimpressed.

The play is worth seeing for the first 3/4 of it and terrific acting by the cast.  Maybe the social commentary will be something you’ll enjoy, but I most certainly did not.

Cheapskate enjoyment value: £3 (strictly for the acting).

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