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Here’s a play title which lends itself inevitably to the “Who’s on first” line. What show are you seeing tonight? Nothing.

But “Nothing,” as it turns out, is indeed something. This fast, relentless comedy of manners, based on a Henry Green story, was originally adapted for theater by Andrea Hart, and is now restaged by Philip Prowse. “Nothing” has undergone each change with growing success—to emerge in its current incarnation.

“Nothing” takes on a class of over-privileged Brits--self-preoccupied and absorbed in hedonistic pursuits. Two ex-lovers have discovered that their children are about to marry, and they react sharply—one positively and one negatively. There ensues a struggle for power and for protecting one’s back—with hilarious, caustic dialogue volleyed back and forth like a ping-pong game. No one is likeable in this dramatis personae (except for one naïve little girl, the would-be bride, played charmingly by Candida Benson). Yet you become as absorbed with each character as they are with themselves. These monsters are fascinating.

In the current Prowse production, scene follows upon scene, each jumping into the next. There’s hardly has time to catch your breath. Yet every line is clipped, impeccably British, and hits its mark like a well-placed rapier thrust. Much has to do, not only with Prowse’s direction, but with his impeccable cast, topped by Sophie Ward and Simon Dutton. Sophie plays the controlling mother who would rather not have her darling son marry the loutish (as she sees her) Mary. She uses every weapon in her arsenal, delivering her lethal blows with grace and accuracy. Ward and Dutton are supported by a first-rate cast, which includes not only Benson, but Pete Ashmore, Andrea Hart, Derwent Watson, and Tristram Wymark.

In all, this is first-rate British satire—outrageous in concept, but terribly correct in language.

-- Irene Backalenick
June 13, 2006

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