“A DELICATE BALANCE:” ON THE EDGE OF AN EMOTIONAL TIGHT ROPE

BONNIE GOLDBERG

Days tumble into years and we often don’t consciously acknowledge their passage, traveling down a path or direction that has been set in motion eons before.  Sometimes it takes an event that is sudden and unexpected to disturb that passage of time and cause us to question where we are going and why.

For the family of Agnes and Tobias, whose lives are a series of sameness, it is the arrival on their doorstep of their best friends of forty years, Harry and Edna, seeking refuge within the walls of their home for an open-ended visit.  Their only explanation is a fear or terror has forced them to flee their own house and seek sanctuary where they will be welcomed and accepted.

Until Saturday, November 13, the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven will present Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “A Delicate Balance” exploring how a sudden knock at the door can set off ripples and repercussions on the occupants on both sides of the portal.

Agnes and Tobias, portrayed with brilliant aplomb by Kathleen Chalfant and Edward Herrmann, enjoy a carefully crafted existence, where very little is said that will disturb the sacred cocktail hour.  They skim over any topics that might be uncomfortable, like the obvious drinking problem of Agnes’ younger sister Claire (Ellen McLaughlin) who resides with them and the strong possibility that their daughter Julia (Keira Naughton) might soon be coming home after the failure of her fourth marriage.

One moment Agnes is waxing philosophically on the concern that her mind is about to go adrift like an errant balloon and the next she is answering the door to find Edna and Harry (Kathleen Butler and John Carter) as surprise guests.  Agnes, the fulcrum of the family, does not know how to maintain the delicate balance that is her primary role.  This dysfunctional unit talks around issues without confronting them, like the loss of their son Teddy or the grave possibility that Tobias has been unfaithful.

 With the arrival of Edna and Harry, followed soon after by Julia’s hurricane appearance demanding her needs and wants be addressed and her bedroom returned to her, Agnes and Tobias are forced to reassess their sterile and uncaring lack of interaction.  Is Claire a willful drinker as she claims or a full-bodied alcoholic?  Will Julia grow up and take responsibility for her quartet of troubled marriages?  Will Edna and Harry move in permanently?  Can Agnes and Harry face the loss of control, of sanity, of love and of direction that is so obvious in their relationship? James Bundy directs this tight rope walk with skill and fearlessness on a beautifully detailed set by Chien-Yu Peng.

For tickets ($10-85), go the Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel Street at York, New Haven at 203-432-1234 or go online to www.yalerep.org.  Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m. with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m.

Watch how one dysfunctional family, unaware of its inherent weaknesses, deals with the arrival of some unexpected Trick or Treaters who appear when it isn’t even Halloween.

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