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Levi Holloway’s “Grey House” At Lyceum Theatre, Saturday 2pm, July 15th, 2023 Reviewed

I went to see “Harry Potter And The Cursed Child” back when it opened in 2016 on the West End at the Palace Theatre. The Palace opened in 1891 and witnessed several theatrical milestones. Notably, it was the first venue in the United Kingdom to screen a moving picture, which occurred in 1896. It also hosted several successful productions, including “The Sound of Music” in the 1960s, which became one of its longest-running movies, “The Sound Of Music” showed for 99 weeks before it went into wide distribution.

A perfect setting for “Cursed Child” as its walls dried with theatrical lore, it looked as if it was a part of Hogwarts and as such was filled with ghosts and goblins and a sense of a time long past; The Lyceum is the closest thing we have. It started performances in 1903, the architecture is superior gothic but the acoustic should be better though like all the theatres, it is mostly as good as the production. The blocking is lousy, the seats uncomfortable but that’s what happens when you don’t renovate. At Lyceum, the longest running play was Judy Holliday’s “Born Yesterday” which ran for nearly four years, and the seats are worse.

Which leaves us with Lyceum’s current production of Levi Holloway’s “Grey House” -a baffling piece of horror that fails to horrify mostly because no one knows what it is all about. A cottage in the heart of a forest on a wet and windy night, find a couple, escaping from a car crash wandering through the woods. At first it appears as though the the husband and wife (both excellent: Paul Sparks and Tatiana Maslany) are alone in a cabin they find to get out of the elements but there is a caretaker (yes, that’s Laurie Metcalf) and four girls, a boy, and an ancient who has been there since…

Well, I am not sure how long. It is 1977 and there is no cell phones and no easy way out as the couple realize they are in mortal danger (one of the girls likes chewing electrical wires so guess what? That’s right, no landline). By the end there will be a death and a changing of the guard but none of it quite adds up. Spoiler alert: all four girls were violently killed by men and the cabin is a way station between heaven (up the stairs) and hell (below), when at the end the murderer is revealed, one of the girls has her revenge and moves on to the afterlife and another girl takes her place. It is like #metoo by Stanley Kubrick, as a type of short hand the girls resemble the twins in The Shining; the play works itself as if it was something you wish had happened to Harvey Weinstein.

A pretty good idea but it is so sloppy I had no idea about that till I started reading on the internet, the play was so confusing that journalists who reviewed it were given a press release after the show explaining it -the journalists aren’t the question, the audience is, and nobody leaving “Grey House” is gonna be feeling chilled but satisfied. A real pity, the set design is a marvellous thing, with a fridge filled with men’s lost souls, a sofa that eats people, a house with a soul of its own, a removal of skin from a broken leg, all leading to a death and a continuation. But why? what? I understand that is what Levi means, but it isn’t what the play has shown.

“Grey House” is a play that begs for a rewrite. Although interesting and a little nerve wracking, it misses on all cylinders but is still just about good enough. Director Joe Mantello has done the best he can but really, were we expected to realize that when the husbands bloodied shoe is thrown to the right it signifies his jeopardy? Everything we are meant to realize we are not given enough information to do so. You need a map and a GPS to get the couple out of the forest, and when the sofa ate one of the girl I needed years of therapy and a GPS to get out of Lyceum.

Grade: B-

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