There are many dramas on stage and TV that let us empathize with criminality. And audiences have become accustomed to seeing how bad choices immediately affect others who don’t do the bad things, because often the stories focus on exposing how or why the act happened. But Moment—written by Deirdre Kinahan and staged at Studio Theatre—reminds us that sometimes the most profound traumas occur well after the act, when the world is no longer watching.
Kinahan drops us into the Lynch family home in a small suburb of Dublin in a nondescript time period. Here, we first meet Niamh Lynch (Emily Landham), who learns from her ailing mother Teresa (Dearbhla Molloy) that her brother Nial (Peter Albrink) will be coming home to visit after nearly 20 years away. Niamh and her sister, Ciara Blake (Caroline Bootle Pendergast) are dispirited when they hear this news about their prodigal brother—the visit forces them to confront a terrible event that broke their family apart—but also enthralled when they learn that he is bringing his new wife Ruth (Hannah Yelland) home with him.
It’s easy to feel at home with these characters, as if they’ve given you an invitation to dine and drink tea with them. That’s an indirect result of the staging, which is eye-level to the audience in an intimate setting, designed like it could be from the TV set of any family drama. But the script’s conversational tone makes parts of the first act feel a bit too comfortable and a bit too drawn out, leaving the audience anxious for a hint of the big reveal: What crime did Nial commit?
The play comes together when all the family members are finally under the same roof (at Teresa’s home) even if by accident. It’s here Landham’s tempered performance bubbles over and we get a clear look at her range. But during and immediately after her explosion, there’s a missed cue: Nothing more about the crime or why Niamh loathes her brother is revealed. Instead, it seems to be the playwright or the director Ethan McSweeny’s intention to dabble with timing to show Niamh’s raw, pent-up anger, rather than move the story forward and explain why her anger is there in the first place. There’s also something atypical about this moment that makes you want to stay in the Lynch’s home and understand why and how they’ve coped for so long living in the aftermath of Nial’s crime.
Blocking is also somewhat of a problem throughout the first half of the play; actors deliver some of their lines with backs to the audience so you miss emotional moments just before they all come together at the dinner table. It’s an issue of space: There are either too many actors onstage, which makes the set feel crowded, or the set is too small for all the actors to comfortably perform together.
But the single detail that takes the audience out of the Lynch’s home and out of Ireland is… the beer—no, seriously. Throughout the play, the characters drink Corona; not the most traditional beer for an Irish family, one imagines. But perhaps it serves as a reminder that this kind of tragedy could happen to any family, anywhere, no matter what beer you drink.
1501 14th St. NW. $20-$75. (202) 332-3300. studiotheatre.org.