The remarkable stage actress Mary McCann, one of the founding members of the Atlantic Theater Company, is the perfect actress for Simon Stephens’ drama Harper Regan, about a London-area office worker in the throes of a midlife crisis. McCann can play both raw and vulnerable, as well as impulsive and self-defeating, and her face is a remarkable roadmap of her character’s emotional wanderings.
Unfortunately, Stephens’ script, which unfolds in a series of (typically) two-person vignettes, does not always live up to the promise of its title character. We meet her off-putting and self-centered boss (a well cast Jordan Lage), who refuses to give her time off to see her dying father. We meet her teenage daughter (Madeleine Martin) and her husband (Gareth Saxe), with whom she has a strained relationship since a mysterious incident several years ago whose details are only gradually revealed. These domestic scenes, particularly a second-act exchange with her estranged mother (The Good Wife‘s Mary Beth Peil), are the strongest ones in the show, revealing a true feeling for the awkward dynamics and misdirection in family conversation.
But Harper’s frequent encounters with strangers — a schoolmate of her daughter’s (Stephen Tyrone Williams), an easily flustered attendant at her father’s hospice (Makira Kakkar), a much younger pickup artist in a bar (Peter Scanavino) — have a tendency to drag, and to falter in the authenticity department. They just don’t always ring true. Still, McCann has such a solid and sympathetic command of her character that she holds our attention even when the overly talky production meanders into narrative cul-de-sacs. B