The American Plan, St James Theatre
In the hubbub and heat of high summer, Eva Adler considers the Catskills Mountains the perfect retreat for herself and teenage daughter Lili. As the quintessential resort for American Jews excluded from the waspish country clubs the picturesque landscape offers young Lili the prospect of summer romance. When Nick Lockridge appears from across the lake, a season of gaiety and sun soaked excitement stretches ahead. However, under the watchful eye of domineering Eva, love's young dream finds itself under constant scrutiny and long concealed secrets disturb the still waters of the mountain range. As confidences are broken and dreams are shattered, Lili finds that whilst she can escape the commotion of Manhattan, she can never escape the iron fist of her mother.
Set in 1960, Richard Greenberg's play exquisitely describes the reality of the 'American Dream.' Eva played by Diana Quick has prospered in the land of opportunity, but the respect she commands is limited to her own community. Her daughter Lili played by Emily Taaffe, embodies a brash excitability, thoroughly incompatible with Eva's German bourgeois sensibility. Taaffe plays a belligerently free spirited girl on the cusp of womanhood. The agonizing frustration she feels at her lack of independence is contrasted by her coquettish banter and her skipping around barefoot.
The American Plan has such a depth of perception. By including characters from such diverse backgrounds Greenberg exposes the prejudices so ingrained in America's core structure and impels us to question our own glass ceilings.
Greenberg's script explores a range of issues relating to American society. As a sunkissed Protestant with ambition, Lili's beau Nick appears beyond reproach. As the plot unfolds we discover the experiences which have necessitated this facade. Luke Allen-Gale plays the role with sensitive apprehension which is strongly contrasted with fellow youth Gil. Seeking respite from his career in publishing, Gil descends upon the holiday makers, swiftly ingratiating himself. His steadfast belief that wealth, love and prosperity are his for the taking is founded in a savvy appreciation of social convention. Mark Edel-Hunt is energetic and assertive in the role.
The playwright's complex use of language and farcical interludes gives the production a tone of exaggerated realism. With so many skeletons breaking out of the closet it is notable that Eva's companion Olivia remains unexposed. Played with sage distinction by Dona Croll, Olivia comments upon her anonymity 'Being known is not part of my job.' Her relationship with Eva is fascinating; they are women of a similar age but in such different circumstance, Olivia appears the more accepting of her own position. Eva on the other hand views herself as outside the realms of American society. Having fled Germany in the wake of the holocaust she is eager to protect her daughter at any cost. The complexity of her character is conveyed magnificently by Quick. Speaking in the slow distinct syllables of the German accent, her cunning manipulations make her seem like a puppet master, deftly pulling the strings.
This play has such a depth of perception. By including characters from such diverse backgrounds Greenberg exposes the prejudices so ingrained in America's core structure. With incredible performances from the entire cast The American Plan impels us to question our own glass ceilings.
Dona Croll – interview, The American Plan