The Lehman Trilogy

The Lehman Trilogy by Stefano Massini / adapted by Ben Power

National Theatre & Piccadilly Theatre / directed by Sam Mendes

Seen on June 22, 2019

Three generations, three centuries, three acts: The Lehman Trilogy is a theatrical feast that comes in threes, but it enchants one with a remarkably unified, indivisible force. Adapted by Ben Power from Stefano Massini’s 2012 play in Italian, it chronicles the rise and fall of Lehman Brothers, from Henry Lehman’s 1844 arrival in New York from Bavaria to the firm’s bankruptcy in 2008. A chronicle it is, but the documentarian instinct is one of many vectors at play in this blazingly inventive account of that turbulent period. Shouldered entirely by three magnificent actors, this epic saga of rags to riches (and all the way back) captures an extraordinary degree of multivocality in its lyrical and psychological exploration of what it means to succeed and fail, what it takes to adapt to changing exigencies or to stick to one’s principles—as a business, as a family, and as a nation.

Sam Mendes stages this roller coaster ride of a play in a revolving glass cube designed by Es Devlin; within this modest but smart structure are three compartments of a contemporary office, which provide the setting for the entirety of the action. The opening moment, set in 2008, signals clearly that this is where Lehman Brothers’ story will reach its tragic conclusion; so we watch the whole journey unfold in the material space that marks its destination. The proleptic force of this choice is tangible throughout, which also manifests itself in the third-person authorial voice used by all three of the actors as they tread their way through the story. Indispensable to this world are Luke Halls’ astonishingly evocative projections that constitute a constantly active background, registering abrupt changes in setting, mood, and perspective with clarity. In this, there is also strong support by Jon Clark’s patiently dynamic lighting and Nick Powell’s nimble and expansive sound design, including live piano accompaniment. It is very hard indeed to imagine this play realized on stage in any other way—such is the extent of precision and harmony that reign supreme over its numerous design elements. An uncanny clockwork, if you will.

But this is only a part of what makes this production’s wheels run so smoothly. Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley, and Ben Miles are simply excellent in their adaptable, confident, and euphonious interpretations of over fifty characters. When we first meet them, they are the three Lehman brothers at the estranged origins of what will ultimately become an investment bank. But soon enough, they start to take on the voices of others that belong to their story, regardless of how prominently. So gesture by gesture, character by character, they weave an awe-inspiring fabric that encompasses the large and the small, the trivial and the consequential, the witty and the somber. This challenging but generous mode of storytelling allows us to follow a complex and sprawling narrative with equal measures of depth and breadth. Once we get into the swing of the play’s restless dramaturgy, it becomes a joy—slightly exhausting at times but perpetually riveting—to follow these three masterful actors wherever they go. No one is off limits: wives, children, business partners, and mere acquaintances are all part of the astounding range of characters embodied by them, even if fleetingly. Their energy, their commitment, never lags. They simultaneously narrate the events as outsiders and experience them as participants. At once critically detached commentators and deeply invested agents, the actors continually straddle multiple lines, pay due respect to multiple allegiances.

No less impressive is their deeply choreographic blocking: every single moment can be said to form a searing tableau, even as it may lead to the next one in moments of fast-paced movement. The actors stand on tables, crawl under sofas, and push each other on office chairs. With black markers in their hands, they write on glass walls the ever-changing names of the company in a ritual of self-renewal and progress. Picked up and thrown around by them, the archive boxes that abound on the stage variously become chess pieces, building blocks, talismans, stepping-stones. Just as in children’s games, much magic is created out of the seemingly prosaic. In fact, as the boxes have their narrative source in the firm’s closing down, the magic is occasioned by the tragic finality of the story itself, as though the retrospective look could not have been captured—and channeled into a narrative—without being anchored in these sad markers of (en)closure. The imaginative limits of this dramatic world are positively imperceptible: it generates and feeds on a haunting sense of primal theatricality.

Sam Mendes’ meticulous and daring vision, propped by Ben Power’s piercing adaptation of the original text into this compact and compelling version, makes itself apparent in every nook and cranny of this production without any ostentation. This is, in other words, as much a directorial tour de force as it is an actorly one, for the nature of the ride we are taken on is both complex and demanding, and it could have easily crumbled to pieces in less capable hands. Historically and thematically, the play’s range is formidable. Just as Lehman Brothers draws an unpredictable trajectory from selling raw cotton to investing in railways to trading stocks (with dozens of other engagements sprinkled throughout), the play itself evolves considerably as a malleable (but never loose) meditation on Jewish identity, immigration, capitalism, and—of course—family. True to life, these sites of selfhood and collectivity, ever allied with anxiety and change, are not tackled in siloes but beautifully enmeshed, their inextricable togetherness made clear. The Lehmans’ initial successes, for instance, cannot be conceived apart from their strong ties to one another and to their faith. The gradual loosening of those ties, in turn, is partially triggered by the rampaging socio-economic pressures of the Great Depression. Sure, business is business, but in this play, it is also family, faith, identity.

If The Lehman Trilogy is a master class in theatre—and it is—then much of its achievement lies in its sublime orchestration of the resources available to it. It is one of those rare productions where everything comes together in a way that sets a new standard for successful artistic collaboration. In the spirit of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s great poem “Ozymandias,” nothing may remain today of the formerly glorious, the once-invincible Lehmans, but the work that tells of that vanishing act soars triumphantly, sure to leave a firm imprint on anyone who encounters it.

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The Starry Messenger

The Starry Messenger by Kenneth Lonergan

Wyndham’s Theatre / directed by Sam Yates

Seen on June 19, 2019

Dramatic representations of ennui often have an important decision to make at the onset of their development: should they force their audience to experience vicariously those affects which they take as their subject, or should they convey the crushing force of those feelings through other, potentially more inventive means? Kenneth Lonergan traps his 2009 play The Starry Messenger in the former camp, emptying it of any semblance of dramatic thrust or emotional build-up. What remains—and what runs for 2 hours and 45 minutes in Sam Yates’s production at Wyndham’s Theatre—is hard to endure, not because the sense of prosaic vacuity that runs through the play is not worthwhile, but because the way in which it saturates the work is much less riveting than it could have been.

At the center of The Starry Messenger is the anhedonic Mark, an astronomer in his fifties who teaches adult classes at New York’s Hayden Planetarium as a substitute for his failed dream of becoming a hands-on researcher in the field. Despite the annoying eccentrics who fill his classroom, he seems to care about his work and to have made peace with his uninspiring life. At home, he is amicably tormented by domestic minutiae, gently thrust on him by his wife and fifteen-year-old son. After a chance meeting with Angela, a young single mother who works as a trainee nurse, Mark finds himself embroiled in a romantic affair, which appears to hold the key to a somewhat more thrilling routine, but not without pushing him to reconsider his life.

In its obsession with the triviality of human life, The Starry Messenger moves at a glacial pace and presumes to make a virtue of its own uneventfulness. Yet, having been misapplied, virtue turns into vice, for there is barely anything in the play to counterbalance the absence of a strong plot. The intentional triteness of much of the dialogue is more artificial than naturalistic, more cringe-worthy than relatable. So it is with the characters: for a play that orients itself primarily around one small man’s life, Mark’s figuration is not particularly piercing. Granted, our prolonged exposure to his calm surface does yield glimpses of the tempests beneath it, made especially evident in a beautiful scene where he suddenly breaks into tears in the middle of his living room. But the nature of those tempests remains largely opaque, untouched. Matthew Broderick’s fine but ultimately sapless performance is partially responsible for this: he does not delve into Mark’s apathy and self-derogation in the way one would expect from an actor of his caliber. He has a hard time revealing the soul of his character and often takes refuge in monotonous delivery and gait in an attempt to depict a man frozen by his own will.

Even more disappointing is his wife Anne: though played brilliantly by Elizabeth McGovern, the character is so flat and insubstantial that one cannot help but wonder what, if anything, her absence would change in the play. Woefully underwritten, Anne is almost a prop whose sole purpose is to taunt Mark with benign but endless questions. Perhaps the most intriguing and well-developed character here is Angela: fittingly, the real star in the universe of this show is Rosalind Eleazar, whose thoughtful and sincere performance gradually forms the emotional core of the production. She does a great job of reflecting her character’s deep-running sorrow and youthful optimism, and her rendering gets even better as Angela experiences an unthinkable tragedy. Among the supporting cast, Sid Sagar and Jenny Galloway (as Mark’s outlandish students) give delectably witty performances that provide some necessary comic relief, administering electric shocks to an otherwise bland stage.

Then again, we have the question of what astronomy is doing in this play. Throughout, Lonergan gestures towards the tension between the diminutive significance of individual grievances against a cosmic scale and the epic dimension of those turmoils when experienced subjectively. There is no easy to way to square these two realities, and Lonergan does not try to do so, but the prospect of grappling with this perceptual double-bind may still have been worth a shot. The play’s gratuitous and thin discourse on astronomy is not so much an integral element of the plot or characterization as a replaceable gimmick to co-opt a contemplative vocabulary. For all we care, Mark could have been a biologist or a chemist thinking about life from bottom up rather than top down. There is nothing intrinsically significant about the play’s engagement with the universe and our elusive place in it that creates intellectual rigor or an emotional punch. Even Mark’s long speech at the end, which has too much of Carl Sagan in it, is too campy—and his delivery too rhetorical—to sum up the play’s preoccupation with the wonders of astronomy into a resonant force.

A lot of the scenes in The Starry Messenger take place in a hospital room where Angela takes care of an old and dying patient, often in the presence of his distressed daughter. Almost all the highlights of the play are to be found in these scenes, which evince much dramatic vigor and potential. Yet as refreshing and promising as they are, many of these scenes are simply dispensable; they may even be said to belong to a different play altogether. Their contributions to what Lonergan is trying to do in this play are uneven and uncertain, which should help us diagnose why the play is just way too long. In an alternative universe, The Starry Messenger could be radically decluttered, find a meaningful through-line, and run up to no more than an hour and a half. All of which is to say: it could have really benefited from a dramaturg’s touch.

That The Starry Messenger’s dramatic aspirations are intelligible makes it perhaps more disappointing when we find them ultimately unfulfilled. Much of this, of course, is also characteristic of Mark’s own despair: he, too, knows what he would do and how he would be in ideal terms, but is all too aware of his middling reality. This bizarre correspondence between the whole and the part may have something of a cosmic harmony in it, but still, it would be a better use of one’s time to visit other heavenly bodies in the universe of Lonergan’s oeuvre.

Wife

Wife by Samuel Adamson

Kiln Theatre / directed by Indhu Rubasingham

Seen on June 14, 2019

Many a dramatist has imagined what happens to Nora after she slams the door at the end of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. That is not what Samuel Adamson does in his new play Wife, but he is similarly invested in that resonant moment. Wife asks, repeatedly but dynamically, what happens to those who play Nora on stage, and to those who watch her from the stalls, after the curtain falls. Boasting a structure that is at once well-crafted and unpredictable, Adamson’s play takes us through the immediate aftermaths of four London productions of A Doll’s House—set in 1959, 1988, 2019, and 2042—which build on one another in complex but mostly elegant ways, much in the manner of nesting dolls.

Adamson is preoccupied with the play’s implications for gay and lesbian individuals as they are embedded in—and revolt against—changing milieus of oppression and liberation. What may, for example, Nora’s infamous exit signify for a closeted spectator? What does it mean to embody Nora on stage without actually believing in the transformative power of theatre? How do our evolving stage interpretations of Ibsen’s play unearth or efface what some may claim to be a set of outmoded concerns, especially in the wake of multiple waves of feminism? These are just a few of the questions that animate Adamson’s packed but patient plotting, and each of the play’s four strands picks them up in different shades and against distinct backdrops.

Our journey through these four stagings of A Doll’s House—ranging from purist, seemingly tame productions to abstracted and even deconstructive takes—sets store by a good deal of theatrical reflexivity, which reaches its punchy crescendo right before the play’s intermission, as we are thrust into the 2019 production, which turns out to take place at Kiln Theatre. Indeed, there is a strong sense in which Wife treats A Doll’s House partly as a shorthand for theatre in general, interrogating the art form’s social and political potentialities beyond the borders of Ibsen’s classic. Richard Kent’s bare-bones design, which makes much out of a handful of set-pieces, and Indhu Rubasingham’s highly contoured direction frequently draw attention to our locatedness in an auditorium, foregrounding the play’s nature as an inquisitive ode to the theatre.

Yet despite Adamson’s neat plotting, the discrete parts of Wife are not consistently strong. Though full of potential, the first act is by far the weakest: taking place in the dressing room of the 1959 production, it shows the consequential tapering of an affair between a married woman and the actress who plays Nora, but the limp dialogue and the high-strung acting prevent the scene’s dramatic and lyric energies from flourishing. The performances are so odd that one cannot help but wonder if this act will soon turn out to be a nested play within the larger play. The second act, featuring two gay men whose wildly differing attitudes towards their sexual identities end up overwhelming their love for each other, is more refined in the questions it asks and the answers it ponders. But it is for the third act that the play saves its best: set in 2019, this emotionally dense and deeply confrontational act hinges on an encounter between a straight woman and a gay man who was, decades ago, her father’s lover (both of whom, as it turns out, we saw in the previous act). What ultimately becomes a fiery debate between these two characters has at its root the question of whether progress in LGBTQ rights might have led to psychological and social inertia, bordering on facile contentment, when there is so much more to be done. The play never quite recovers the intelligence and the intensity it exudes in this portion, as the concluding scenes are slightly glib in their prioritization of formal tidiness over meditative daring.

This multi-layered and demanding play is powered by a fine ensemble with piercing talent: Karen Fishwick is at her very best in the third act, where her angry Daisy delivers an impressive takedown of Ivar’s smug facade. Calam Lynch is astounding both as the deeply insecure but passionate Eric, and as the self-absorbed diva Cas. Joshua James similarly gives razor-sharp performances in all three of his characters, though his take on Finn goes overboard at times. There is an inherent beauty to seeing this small and adaptable cast tackle an ever-growing set of characters, especially as they are bound to each other by ties of biology and affect despite the passage of time.

In spite of its dramaturgical weak spots and occasional lapses in performance, Wife is an impressive work full of reflective (and reflexive) energy. It is certainly much more satisfying than a simple re-write or sequel of A Doll’s House, and in refusing to go down either of those roads, it finds its own admirable way to celebrate and question what it deems to be a play full of interminable relevance and power, both today and tomorrow.

ANNA

ANNA by Ella Hickson / co-created by Ben and Max Ringham

National Theatre / directed by Natalie Abrahami

Seen on May 18, 2019

Score: 5 / 5

Something is tantalizingly amiss at the National’s Dorfman Theatre. There is a headset attached to every seat; the auditorium’s seating capacity is strikingly diminished; and the figurative fourth wall has been made literal—well, glass.

ANNA, Ella Hickson’s ingeniously restrained new play at the National Theatre, is set in an East Berlin flat in 1968. At a time of state-sponsored surveillance and heightened paranoia, the play’s titular character is about to host a party to celebrate her husband’s recent promotion, which is itself triggered by the murky “disappearance” of his former boss. As her guests trickle in and alcohol starts to flow, Anna is thrown off course by the seemingly unexpected appearance of a disturbing figure from her past. Before long, she’s out to sabotage the festive mood and point fingers, raising her voice to the point of dissent. Or so it seems—as nothing within these four walls is safe from suspicion, not even suspicion itself.

In her previous play, The Writer, Hickson had brilliantly asked not only what it means to construct a feminist dramaturgy, but what it would take to stage it in a patriarchal society. In ANNA, she is joined by co-creators and sound designers Ben and Max Ringham in investigating the dramaturgy of surveillance. The scenic result, designed by Vicki Mortimer, is a glass box (or cage) within which the interior of Anna and Hans’s flat is rendered in hypernaturalistic detail. Throughout, Hickson’s characters are trapped in this bell jar of a space, which turns out to be more fortified than it appears, as they are inaudible without the vital aid of an audio headset, worn by every member of the audience for the duration of the show.

There may be a thick glass that separates us from the action on stage, but the aural dimension of ANNA countervails this imposed distance by taking us deep into what transpires behind that glass. Our hearing is sonically focalized through Anna: we hear only what she hears, ranging from the most ghostly whisper to the loudest bang. Even though the entire set is decked with microphones, so as to capture the muffled noises emanating from objects and the cacophony of much of the party, it soon becomes clear that these are meant to be centered on Anna. (For example, when she enters the bedroom and closes the door, the scene in the living room is suddenly muted.) The effect is searingly intimate and disturbingly resonant, all the more so because this is no mere gimmick. Rather, ANNAmakes voyeurs of its audience in thematically fitting ways, but not without revealing—in a series of twists both suspenseful and shrewd—who has been in charge all along.

Even as it increasingly blurs the distinction between the surveillant and the surveilled, Hickson’s play does not lose sight of its well-defined but complex concerns. Many a dramatist has grappled with the myriad interminglings of the personal and the political, but only a few could extract so much from that elusive vanishing point with such economy and understatement, and in just an hour. Central to Hickson’s take on this is the question of how far one might be willing—indeed, incentivized—to go to exorcise personal demons of the past by means of repressive political structures. With fleeting echoes of Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden, Hickson’s plot feels at once nimble and dense, thrilling but not gratuitously so. Unfolding in real time and displaying a predominantly realist tenor, the action perpetuates a revamped slice-of-life aesthetic that rises to great heights. There may be a few moments that seem implausible at first, but hindsight unlocks their inherent, though necessarily clouded, self-consciousness.

The cast deserves much praise for their impressive performances: Phoebe Fox’s credibly shape-shifting Anna thwarts expectations, fuelling the play’s twists with admirable control (and with dints of abandon). As her husband Hans, Paul Bazely captures his character between the opposing impulses of caution and resistance, until the play’s haunting coda allows him to reveal an unforeseen depth. Hans’s new boss Christian Neumann, who, Anna claims, was complicit in her mother’s murder twenty-five years ago, is played by Max Bennett with a glossy surface but a rivetingly evolving interiority. Natalie Abrahami’s direction has a fine sense of spatial dynamics in this restricted playing field, governing the audience’s attention across multiple points with subtle but handsome maneuvers.

ANNA is one of those works where form and content are brought into a remarkably symbiotic relationship. Rather than take for granted its allegiance to immersive realism, the production more than justifies the mechanics of its storytelling. Some might find the story bland, and some overwrought, but it is precisely between these two extremes that ANNA situates itself with mastery: its theatricality—for it has one—is at once smart, sincere, and sleek. It is, all in all, an exemplary achievement in the fusion of old forms with new technology.

White Pearl

White Pearl by Anchuli Felicia King

Royal Court / directed by Nana Dakin

Seen on May 17, 2019

Score: 3.5 / 5

On the surface, Anchulu Felicia King’s debut play White Pearl is about an outrageous PR crisis: triggered by a racially offensive ad that has gone viral, and experienced with increasing ferocity by six Asian women who work in the cosmetics company behind the ad, headquartered in Singapore. Yet this set-up works primarily as a scaffolding for a provocative engagement with questions on racism, colourism, and Asian identity. As the discursive fire on social media gets fanned, the various fractures among the play’s six female characters emerge into light with great wit and a surprising edge. King wants to demolish egregiously monolithic understandings of Asianness: each of the women in the play belongs to a different racial group, and as much as a Western perspective might immediately label them all as Asian, they are acutely—and sometimes even mistakenly—aware of how and why they differ.

Under Nana Dakin’s electrifying direction, the cast does a great job of maintaining the pulse of this tonally uneven black comedy. Moi Tran’s minimalist design of a chic office, reflective of the company’s white-obsessed brand identity, puts the spotlight on the characters’ near-territorial conflicts. Ian William Galloway’s dynamic projections of frenzied social media stats and Nicola Chang’s hyperactive sound design seem to want to make up for this scenic austerity, but they actually pull the play in directions it’s not willing to go: King’s story does not need this much flash, and something of its gravity is lost as a result of this overly hip aesthetic.

The play is most alive when the balance of power among King’s finely drawn characters shifts and recalibrates in thought-provoking ways, whether through sheer hostility, lukewarm camaraderie, or self-interested ambivalence. There are a few scenes where the redundant intricacies of the plot impose themselves too much on the play’s meditative dimension. Ultimately, White Pearl hardly delivers the punch one waits for all along, but that is not to say that it doesn’t offer enough blows to keep its audience meaningfully engaged.

Betrayal

Betrayal by Harold Pinter

The Jamie Lloyd Company / directed by Jamie Lloyd

Seen on May 9, 2019

Score: 4.5 / 5

In Jamie Lloyd’s expectedly staggering take on it, Pinter’s dissection of a web of betrayals reaches a new lyrical intensity: rendered with utmost precision and poignancy, this Betrayal finds poetry where there seems to be none, and asks us to locate in Pinter’s elusive language the key to a drama that is infinitely more complex than it first appears. Lloyd’s elegantly abstract staging excavates new depths in this story of a long-lasting extramarital affair by foregrounding the intrinsic triangularity of its various tensions. Even though many of the scenes feature only two of the three characters, Lloyd keeps the third one always on stage, mostly distant from the other two, but sometimes tenderly—and physically—implicated in their dialogue.

Presented on a revolving stage with only two chairs and a few props, the play gains an ambiance of timelessness which is in fruitful tension with the plot’s frequent reliance on reverse chronology. It’s as though the reality of the world on stage is more phantasmal than material, more subjective than externally observed. Especially as the actors’ blocking nears the realm of choreography, this no man’s land takes on the character of a grand force, perhaps even of fate. This is nowhere more evident than in the closing moments, when Emma is pulled in the direction of Jerry not by her own will but by the moving ground beneath her feet.

Tom Hiddleston is simply stunning as the betrayed husband Robert: he makes every single line land with both force and grace, and endows his character with a depth unsurpassed by Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox, as great as they are. Every word that comes out of Hiddleston’s mouth is pregnant with multiple meanings, and his delivery lures the audience into this unfailing richness without revealing too much about it. Even at her happiest (or seemingly calmest), Ashton’s Emma shows signs of distress and tumult; she can be playful and nimble, but there is also an intriguing darkness to her that’s always knocking at the door, asking to be let out. Cox’s Jerry comes off somewhat naive and lighthearted at times, but that is not to say that his isn’t a thoughtful characterisation. On the contrary, insofar as his demeanour is dissimilar to Robert’s, it nourishes the tantalising complexity of their friendship as it’s conveyed to us.

Though Lloyd’s production is filled with numerous tableaus of searing beauty, there is one moment in particular that will stick with me for a long time: that crucial scene where Emma reveals her affair to Robert is played with astonishing control by both Hiddleston and Ashton. With tears slowly trickling down their cheeks, and lines uttered slowly and painfully, the two portray this moment with a finesse that is as moving as it is haunting. If there is one thing that scene—indeed, the whole of Betrayal—can teach us, it’s that sometimes thoughtful minimalism can deliver the most shattering punch.

Rosmersholm

Rosmersholm by Henrik Ibsen, in a new adaptation by Duncan Macmillan

Duke of York’s Theatre / directed by Ian Rickson

Seen on May 4, 2019

Score: 4.5 / 5

This modestly luminous revival of a great but lesser-known Ibsen classic is as ambiguous as it is assertive: Ibsen’s characters intertwine the personal and the political into a heart-breaking Gordian knot that ultimately lends itself to sheer poetry.

Rosmersholm is a play of opposites held in equipoise (that is, until they are not): radicals and conservatives, progress and stasis, past and future, reason and madness. What brings these polarities together is the family home of Rosmers, an ancient and wealthy bloodline capable of exerting a disproportionate amount of social and political influence over the larger community. Within this crucible transpires a psychological tug of war about which side John Rosmer ought to apply that influence: divided by the quietly radical politics of his ever-enigmatic companion Rebecca and the conservative agenda of his brother-in-law Andreas, Rosmer tries to find a voice of his own while twisting the knife on a haunted and haunting past.

A smashing cast, led by Hayley Atwell (as the electrifyingly nuanced Rebecca) and Tom Burke (as the composed but tormented Rosmer), breathes admirable life into a production that could otherwise have been misconstrued as a bit dusty, especially with the period staging. The phrase “a new adaption”, followed by the masterful Duncan Macmillan’s name, might naturally lead one to expect some theatrical—if not metatheatrical—razzmatazz, but the adaptive work in question seems to be no more than a decanting of the language, which is always lucid and knows when to strike a contemporary tune and when to revert to its roots. This works especially well at those moments when the play’s political resonance with our own time is impossible to ignore.

The parlour where much of the action takes place, elegantly designed by Rae Smith, displays a haunting simplicity, while Neil Austin’s sublime lighting, with its tenderly sly changes, makes invaluable contributions to the tonal landscape on stage. Under Ian Rickson’s subtle but intelligent direction, the cast inhabit this seemingly secure world with confidence and grace. Especially at the end, when that world is punctured and invaded (from within, of all places), the tableau we are left with derives its true force from the aftertaste left by their soulful presence throughout.