Tempus Theatre

A Delicate Balance
By Edward Albee Directed by Anthony F. Ingram

Dates 1 – 18 March, 2007 Venue Jericho Arts Centre Reviewer Jane Penistan

Home is a safe place to which we long to return. But the return may not be what we remember or imagine. People change with age and circumstances. The longing to return to the safety of the home of childhood is a dream. In A Delicate Balance, the family is invaded by visitors and the bounds and obligations of friendship and the ties of family values are in conflict.

Tempus Theatre presents this Albee play with the intelligent direction of Anthony F. Ingram. The performances of the cast are clearly characterized and well thought out. Ingram’s set is spacious and well furnished as a comfortable room in a family home. Boquist’s lighting adds warmth and atmosphere to this intimate setting. The audience is in close proximity on three sides of the set, thus being drawn closely to the action on stage.

The residents of this apparently affluent and comfortable household are Tobias and Agnes, happily married, and in retirement, and Claire, Tobias’ self-indulgent sister who lives with them. While not the easiest ménage a trois, this is a family. As the play opens, Agnes wishes she and Tobias could be alone together for the rest of their lives. Their only son has died in childhood and their daughter, Julia, is in the throes of an unhappy fourth marriage.

Suddenly neighbours appear at their door, terrified and seeking refuge. Hospitably Agnes and Tobias invite this strange couple, Harry and Edna, to stay the night. Bursting into the house comes Julia, seeking refuge from her unhappy and crumbling marriage, expecting the customary comforts of her family to console her and the comfort and privacy of her own bedroom. She is almost hysterical at the fact that strangers are in possession of “her” room. It is hers by right. But Tobias explains that long friendship has its obligations to neighbours in distress.

It becomes obvious that Harry and Edna intend to enjoy, prolong and abuse kind hospitality. This frightens both Agnes and Julia. Claire also feels the menace of the uninvited visitors. Tobias wrestles with his conscience over the obligations of long friendship and the rights, comfort and safety of his family.

Tobias (Terence Kelly) is the centre of the family, who keeps them safe and sound, but also has a strong social conscience. This is a strong and assured performance. As Agnes, Anna Hagan is warm and caring, perceptive and sensitive. Her anxiety and motherly protection of her house and household are never sentimental or mawkish, but her fear of the uncertain future and distrust of the visitors is clearly seen. Teryl Rothery is an acerbic and superficially self-assured Claire. She is a strong contrast to the maternal Agnes. T. Weir’s presentation of Julia as an adult, but behaving like and adolescent in her uncertainty and distress, is well managed and convincing.

Bert Steinmanis and Valerie Sing Turner, as the neighbours, Harry and Edna, manage their entrance scene of frightened refugees well, as they do their ill-mannered taking over of family privileges, but fail to emanate the menace that is clearly felt by Agnes and Julia. Nor does this menace communicate itself to the audience.

This is a well conceived production of a seldom presented, but well written and interesting play. It is unfortunate that it is somewhat flawed by two less convincing performances, which fell short of the excellence attained by the rest of the cast. Nevertheless, it is well worth going to Jericho Arts Centre to see this maintenance of A Delicate Balance.

© 2007 Jane Penistan