Scots playwright David Harrower caught the attention of American audiences with Blackbird, a sly and agonizing two-character play that revealed a past liaison between an older man and a young girl. It was a tale of sexual abuse that played as a love story. Or was it the other way around? Harrower’s latest, Good with People, another piece about two lonely, mismatched souls, appears at 59E59 as part of Scotland Week. It, too, works to capture interpersonal ambiguities, though less successfully.
Mrs. Hughes (the excellent Blythe Duff) staffs a lonely hotel in a holiday town on which holidaymakers no longer descend. (This seaside spot has since become home to a naval base and a nuclear defense program.) When a new guest, Evan (Andrew Scott-Ramsay), arrives, she recognizes him as one of a group who once bullied her son. In the course of an evening there are recriminations and reconciliations, none of them too surprising.
Good with People is a slender and at times self-consciously poetic script. Director George Perrin takes a strenuous approach to it, larding every scene change with tenebrous light cues and lowering sounds, designed to articulate the play’s subtext. But as the script eventually discloses its secrets, that text was never particularly sub. These interventions make a short play longer, but also seemingly slighter and hollower. For a piece about a short stay, it very nearly wears out its welcome.