‘Moment’ by Deirdre Kinahan, receiving its American premiere at Steep Theatre, contains a great deal of mindless chit chat. What so-and-so has done over the past few years, whether or not someone will make their early morning flight, polite chatter about kids, spouses, holiday travel arrangements and the preparation of food, all delivered in lilting Irish cadence. When the play is at its best, these insignificant words are like the pirouettes of ice skaters on a vast and frozen lake covered with dangerously thin ice: the more they frolic and twirl, the more the surface cracks, while the audience waits in eager anticipation for it to buckle and break. And when it does, and the figures plunge downward into the icy depths below, the play comes alive.
As Niamh, the fragile, volatile and seemingly least-loved member of the Lynch family, lets all these awful unsaid truths play out beautifully across every moment of her performance. As her mother Teresa (Maggie Cain), sister Ciara (Julia Siple) and brother-in-law, Dave (James Allen) prepare for the long-awaited homecoming of her brother, Nial (Josh Odor), she’s the time bomb ticking quietly in the corner. And as the details of the story slowly unfold, it becomes clear that Nial’s leaving was no simple thing, and that the wounds he left behind were never treated, simply covered over with expensive finery (the set, by Dan Stratton, is a scarily spot-on slice of upper middle class decoration) and left to fester. Though while the actors, particularly Marker, Odor and Carey Lee Burton as Nial’s new bride, Ruth, are for the most part excellent, the Irish accents are a bit spotty here and there, which is rare and disappointing for Steep.
And while the play builds to a satisfying pre-intermission eruption, it never really ventures into fresh territory. Many stories have been written about families with secrets, and the revelations offered here are nothing we haven’t seen before. For all the attention, craft and care clearly on hand, this is a dance we’ve seen before: the skaters, the ice, the cracking and the plunge.