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NY Theater Reviews

Niall Buggy and Beth Cooke/ Ph: Jonathan Keenan

TANGLED UP IN LIES

By SANDY MACDONALD

Edna O’Brien takes on the eternal triangle with sly, insidious wit.

Mr. Berry’s gambit starts off innocently enough. Enchanted by a young woman who appears at his door one day, following up on a tip about vintage clothes (she’s a flea-market vendor), he strings her along, justifying repeat visits with a trickle of finds – the relics, he implies obliquely, of his deceased wife.
 
Only problem is, she isn’t – deceased, that is. In the forceful form of Brenda Blethyn (whose breakout role was in Mike Leigh’s 1997 film Secrets and Lies), Gladys Berry – doughty proletarian helpmeet to her fallen-aristo spouse – is very much present and accounted for, and naturally mystified by the gradual shrinkage of her wardrobe.
 
Not that she could still fit into any of these clothes – but “I could become lissome again” is her crestfallen reaction when at length she uncovers her husband’s perfidy (he claims he has been pawning her belongings to help out a friend). No dummy, she – Gladys spends her days supervising a production line at a doll factory – Mrs. Berry sets a trap to catch her husband in flagrante.
 
Edna O’Brien’s text is a sprightly bricolage of back-story (tragic) and seemingly fanciful yet a propos literary musings: Mr. Berry (antic Niall Buggy), essentially a kept man, fancies himself a gentleman scholar. Some of his fine airs have rubbed off on Gladys, but when push comes to shove, she’s a scrapper. As Hazel, the hapless innocent who wanders into their lair, Beth Cooke conveys a dreamy fragility: her Hazel is no match for this semi-retired rake and his Gorgonian guardian.
 
While the penultimate scene might seem far-fetched – a page transposed, perhaps, from some Victorian novel – O’Brien knows perfectly well what she’s up to. Each character may be haunted, but so, emerging, are we.