SKYLIGHT, Steppenwolf Theatre Company. David Hare's 1995 drama concerns Tom, a wealthy, widowed, middle-aged restaurateur, who attempts to rekindle an old love affair with the young, idealistic Kyra, who abandoned the relationship a few years earlier when Tom's wife found out about it. But their passion dwindles as Tom and Kyra scratch away each other's delusions and deceptions. He sneers at her new life--she's an impoverished inner-city schoolteacher--as guilt-ridden self-punishment. She bemoans his insularity and insensitivity, finally banishing him from her scruffy (but, as designed by Kevin Snow, improbably spacious) flat and accepting her lonely but morally superior existence. Strip away the four-letter words and political preachments, and we're back to the British soap operas of the 30s and 40s, with their tales of intense but untenable romances buried in weepy moral wrangling ("I love you, Chahles, but it can never be").
An actor with the charismatic intelligence of Michael Gambon, who played Tom on Broadway last year, might make this stuff worth watching, but Steppenwolf's Francis Guinan comes off as tediously self-pitying. Sally Murphy's initially appealing Kyra grows too shrilly self-righteous to be effective as the play's moral voice--which she's clearly meant to be by the final scene, when she bonds with Tom's alienated 18-year-old son (the capable Martin McClendon). The actors' nearly nonstop movement under Mike Nussbaum's direction can't disguise the shallow script's essentially static nature; from the author of Plenty, this is plenty of nothing. --Albert Williams