Though Sunday, Feb. 10
North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, Raleigh
“I find it very difficult to even look at you,” family matriarch Patricia (Lenore Field) says to her daughter’s ex-husband, Ian (Simon Kaplan), in a truly carbolic little heart-to-heart in The Herd, British playwright Rory Kinnear’s 2013 family drama. The calmness and utter facticity of Field’s delivery gives the line a chilly sting.
Ian has decided to show up unannounced for his son’s twenty-first birthday, fifteen years after abandoning his wife, Carol, and their two children, Claire and Andy. (The latter’s developmental disabilities have only worsened since Ian left.) Though he’s had the door slammed in his face and sustained a cut lip, neither injury matches the impact of Patricia’s words as she evenly, sincerely advises Ian of the antipathy that surrounds him on all sides.
It’s far from the only moment of superior acting in this Honest Pint Theatre production, co-produced by and staged at North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre. Some of co-artistic director David Henderson’s finest work to date is on display in the detailed characterizations and interrelationships he draws from this superior sextet on Tab May’s professional domestic set.
Jess Barbour’s finely nuanced depiction of Claire reveals a comfortless young woman at two crossroads, in both her life and her relationship with the earnest, rough-hewn Mark, whom Daniel Wilson gives great dimensionality in a robust performance.
I’ve never seen stronger work from Paul Newell than his deceptively avuncular take on the sharp-witted patriarch, Brian, and co-artistic director Susannah Hough ably navigates a series of jagged emotional peaks and valleys in her role as Carol.
For all its strengths, though, we question certain moments in this day of judgment. Neither playwright nor production fully develops Ian’s side of his relationship with Carol, which is needed to keep him from being a run-of-the-mill heel. Allusions to Carol’s dark side from several characters remain mostly unseen in a nevertheless-compelling family portrait whose mysteries were still unfolding on opening night.