‘…what is certain is that the King’s Head Theatre’s revival, which is also the play’s European premiere, is the right production at the right time.’
It is not always apparent why a particular play that is unsuccessful on debut later goes on to have a triumphant revival. Was it an issue with the original production or were certain subjects in the play too controversial at the time? In the case of FOR REASONS THAT REMAIN UNCLEAR … it can only be speculated on, but the general consensus appears to be that the subject matter, child abuse in Catholic schools, was one of the main reasons for its original production’s mixed reception. Either way what is certain is that the King’s Head Theatre’s revival, which is also the play’s European premiere, is the right production at the right time.
The choice of Jessica Lazar as director is an inspired one. With one successful revival at the same venue under her belt already this year – the excellent, relentless, critically acclaimed production of Steven Berkoff’s EAST – it was always intriguing to see what she would do with Crowley’s largely forgotten later play. There are several instances – some literal, others metaphorical – of unlocking in FOR REASONS THAT REMAIN UNCLEAR …. And indeed, in the same way that Lazar unleashed the vibrant anarchy in EAST, she locates the emotional core of this quieter but no less impactful play.
Essentially a two hander, the action is set entirely in an expensive hotel room in Rome. The room is rented out to Patrick (Simon Haines), a Hollywood screenwriter with a taste for the finer things in life. His guest is Conrad (Cory Peterson), an American priest visiting the city who is also from Los Angeles. And the coincidences don’t stop there.
They are occasionally disturbed by a waiter, a perfectly pitched cameo by Daniele Alan-Carter. Around about halfway through the play he brings them some lethally strong Genepy. As Conrad (frequently) uncorks the bottle, it opens up the proverbial Pandora’s Box and is the prelude to the inevitable confrontation. The device is vintage Crowley – the booze flows, the characters circle each other, and the truth comes crashing out.
As might be expected, there is less humour than in some of the playwright’s other work. But Crowley, responsible for some of the funniest one-liners in American drama, doesn’t avoid humour altogether. On the contrary, there are some classic Crowley zingers on display, as funny as anything he has written elsewhere.
The play is compelling throughout. The action is in real time, with no breaks. Haines and Peterson are mesmerising in their long exchange. We can guess there is going to be a secret divulged at some point, and for quite a while it is pretty apparent what that secret might be. But that doesn’t mean the audience can take their eyes off the action for a second. This is where Lazar taps into the brilliance of Crowley’s tragic script so well. We know where it is heading, we know we are being slowly reeled in, but that doesn’t make the destination any less painful. An excellent and well-deserved revival.
Read our interview with Mart Crowley here
Photography: Alex Brenner
FOR REASONS THAT REMAIN UNCLEAR…
Written by Mart Crowley and directed by Jessica Lazar
Produced by the King’s Head Theatre
King’s Head Theatre 25 July – 25 August 2018
Andy Curtis is a playwright who regularly has plays performed in London fringe theatre.