Haunted Haunts 59E59

Blighty hanky-panky: Niall Buggy and Beth Cooke in Haunted
Jonathan Keenan

“Bizarre love triangle” is an understatement.

Edna O’Brien’s subject in Haunted: quaint, sherry-tippling English matrimonial misery. Mr. Berry (Niall Buggy) is a randy old codger with itchy feet and a tendency to wax nostalgic. Mrs. Berry (Brenda Blethyn), a long-suffering harridan, toils thanklessly in a doll factory. If you somehow miss the significance of this occupation to the childless couple, director Braham Murray helpfully places a spotlit poppet upstage.

Enter Hazel (Beth Cooke), a pert waif with immaculate ingenue credentials (impoverished, do-gooder, asexual). She’s heard that Mrs. Berry is selling vintage clothes. Mr. Berry, beguiled, gives her a fancy sweater of his wife’s—the first of many surreptitious presents. Soon, the mismatched couple is hanging out on the DL, disastrously depleting Mrs. B’s wardrobe.


By Edna O�Brien
59E59 Theaters
59 East 59th Street
212-279-4200, 59e59.org

If this sounds like fusty farce, it is, mostly, complete with subterfuge and door slamming. But the bipolar play also has high-tragic aspirations. O’Brien’s characters compulsively quote Shakespeare (among other canonical gents) as if suffering from some rarefied version of Tourette’s. Like a drunk at a church bazaar, Haunted’s tone careens wildly from Masterpiece Theatre stuffiness to knockabout antics.

To wrap up, we get wailing, screams, a cancer death—even a mad scene (poor Hazel pulls an Ophelia). Was it love or punishment, Mr. Berry muses, contemplating his capsized marriage. For us, it’s certainly the latter.

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