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silent treatment header
The Silent Treatment is a family drama in which disaster is not too far away.

Theatre 28 is a company with an admirable record of doing gay-oriented plays with courage and sensitivity. Their newest project, written and directed by company actor Chris Pickles, is notable for almost casually including a sympathetic gay character on the one hand, and for facing the deeply unsettling subject of homosexual child abuse on the other. It is all the more disappointing, therefore, that its medium is to a great extent a somewhat predictable and melodramatic soap opera. The play's subject is the tragic effect on a family of domestic secrets and lies, and its passion lies in an inditement of the policy (repeatedly voiced in the play) of "Least said, soonest mended." With father dead - we will learn how and why near the play's end - and mother (Illona Linthwaite) withdrawn into a silent walking catatonia, older son John (Derek Carlyle) is buckling under the strain of keeping the family functioning, while younger son Andy (Euan Morton) rebels against his efforts. Andy's girlfriend (Polly Findlay) is clearly out of her depth, but openly gay family friend Frank (Dave Sim) attempts to offer good counsel, not realizing how little he understands of the situation. As we watch the family members begin to crumble, it comes as no surprise that there are yet darker secrets to be revealed. Unfortunately, the shocking revelations are telegraphed long in advance and, when they come, are presented melodramatically, making the first act a somewhat unsatisfying soap opera. The second act is more interesting, replaying the already-seen action, to a great extent in mime, while the hitherto-silent mother speaks her thoughts, filling in those details of the back-story not fully explained in the first act, and explaining the source of her schizophrenic withdrawal. While this device allows Linthwaite a passionate and alternately funny and moving monologue, it ultimately disappoints, adding little of significance to either the information or the emotional depth of the first act. We are left with a story that, for all its darkness, has been told before; and the author's courage and sincerity cannot overcome the limitations of his somewhat formulaic mode. There could be a powerful one-act play combining the external and internal perspectives on the situation rather than presenting them sequentially. As it stands, despite strong performances all around, the play delivers too little at too great length.
Gerald Berkowitz


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