The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings


SEARCH CurtainUp



NEWS (Etcetera)



Los Angeles






Free Updates
NYC Weather
A CurtainUp LondonLondon Review
What the Night is For
by Lizzie Loveridge

A woman can forgive everything, except hesitation in desiring her.
-- Melinda Metz
What the Night is For
Gillian Anderson and Roger Allam (Photo: Sarah Dunn)
It seems that Gillian Anderson has only twice before appeared onstage in professional productions. Once in Alan Ayckbourn's Absent Friends in New York for which she won a Theatre World Award and again in Christopher Hampton's The Philanthropist. Both of these were before her long running part, nine years, as Agent Dana Scully in the cult Fox TV drama, The X Files. The extra security on the door at the Comedy Theatre is witness to the large number of fans that she has. There were people who wriggled and fidgeted incessantly through this rather turgid play, but who clapped very enthusiastically at the end. This phenomenon I put down to the star quality. They came to see Gillian Anderson of The X Files in real life. That is the point of the evening. The play is largely immaterial. It is being close to the star that counts. Well not with this reviewer (sour old bag) it doesn't! Like J Alfred Prufrock, I have almost seem them all, seen them come and go.

What the Night is For is about two people who met at a Book Circle ten years ago and had an extra marital affair which ended suddenly and was unresolved. It lacked "closure".

Roger Allam plays Adam Penzius, a successful New Yorker architect, and father of one in a marriage that doesn't thrill him. Gillian Anderson is Melinda Metz, a Mid West wife and teacher, married to an aspiring politician and mother to two boys. These two arrange to meet again in the privacy of her hotel room while she is attending a work related conference. Both are still married, both are still attracted to each other and neither wants to screw up their children's future.

So what happens? What develops is that they fence verbally with each other. They discuss the implications of their past and potential future affair. "Can you lie for all of us?", she asks. "Three young lives could get run over by accident". In the first act she is very contained and cautious in her business suit. In the second Melinda reveals that she has a bi-polar condition and is on drugs to control her manic depressive extremes, and that her husband, despite his family standing and wealth, is a failure in business. It starts to look as though Lindy might be a gold digger. Adam begins more in predatory mode and ends showing some vulnerability. Not believable. My guess is that this character, when told of her psychiatric issues would make his excuses and leave.

What the play is really lacking is passion. Somehow these two are not convincing as a couple. The sexual chemistry seems to be missing. Anderson's delivery is very matter of fact, straightforward, so quiet that, at times, it is almost hard to hear. In the male half of this two-hander Allam lacks charm. Although his character alludes to Lindy's attractiveness, we are never allowed to see anything other than an assertive and calculating woman or when she shouts down the phone to her husband, an angry woman out of control. Even when she gets out of the business suit she coyly puts on her silk pyjamas under the bed clothes, before she gets out of bed, as if there is a hidden camcorder in the room.

The author seems not to really tackle the guilt, pain and the lies of extra-marital deception. I suspect different performances and different direction might make this play more interesting. There isn't even the usual excitement of an illicit extra marital affair and its risks.

John Caird's direction fails to deliver anything other than a pedestrian, rather boring play. Tim Hatley's indigo blue walled box set with its red bed and carpet is lit more like a modern brothel than any chain hotel room I have been in (no prints on the walls?). Some of the early bed scenes are obscured by a cast off napkin on the dinner table Melinda has ordered in her room and is placed at the front of the stage. Not that much was happening anyway. The sexual contact all took place in the interval

During the curtain call, large numbers of photographs were being taken. Pop, pop, pop went the flash bulbs. Why? So the fans can have a special souvenir of Gillian Anderson on stage. Two casting directors are given credit in the programme. How many people did they consider for these two roles? Maybe I should join a Book Circle? Disappointing.

Links to reviews of other Michael Weller plays:
Heart of Art
Buying Time

What the Night is For
Written by Michael Weller
Directed by John Caird

Starring: Gillian Anderson, Roger Allam
Designer: Tim Hatley
Lighting Designer: Paul Pyant
Sound Designer: Rich Walsh
Running time: Two hours fifteen minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 7369 1731
Booking to 23rd February 2003
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 28th November 2002 performance at the Comedy Theatre, Panton Street, London SW1 (Tube Station: Piccadilly Circus)
Metaphors Dictionary Cover
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive


©Copyright 2002, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from>