The reviews for the MCC theater production of British playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell’s The Pride now running at Lucille Lortel Theater, have focused overwhelmingly on a confusion over the setting of the story.
The play is the imagining of the relationships between the same three people—Oliver, Philip and Sylvia, played by Ben Wishaw, Hugh Dancy, and Andrea Riseborough respectively—had they known one another in 1958 and 2008. In the 1958 scenario, Philip and Sylvia are married; Sylvia works for Oliver. Oliver and Philip grapple with their attraction to one another, fighting what at the time was unacceptable. In 2008, Philip and Oliver have just broken up, the result of Oliver’s transgressions. Sylvia, a friend, helps Oliver work through his tendency to self-sabotage.
The confusion over setting is certainly understandable. The first transition from 1958, in which the play begins, into 2008, is a scene that includes a man dressed as a Nazi berating Oliver who is wearing only his underwear and that takes place in the exact same set as the scene before; not exactly a ton of clues for time and place (later it’s the actors clothes that serve as cues). But that the conversation has mostly been about this confusion is a shame, as the ideas that drive the play (including that the pressures of liberation can be just as complex and difficult to handle as that of repression, something women understand well) are important. Especially to a generation who might not know the depth of the repressive past. In one particularly painful scene Philip resorts to aversion therapy.
If you’re in New York, go see it and know that when the actors are wearing modern clothing, they are in modern times.
Bio: Katherine Dykstra is the nonfiction editor at Guernica. Her interview with author and Pulitzer Prize-winner Sheryl WuDunn appeared in Guernica’s January 15th issue. Read her last recommendation of Irm “here”:https://guernicamag.com/blog/1568/rec_room_katherine_dykstra_irm/.