Sick, sicker, sickest. And doomed. That is the most accurate shorthand for describing the four troubled and twisted characters in “Our New Girl,” the work of Dublin-bred, London-based playwright Nancy Harris now receiving its Midwest premiere at Profiles Theatre.
Despite its perky title, this play is one of the most disturbing studies of emotional child abuse around, and well before it’s all over your strongest impulse might be to contact Great Britain’s Child Protective Services agency. You might also add Harris’ play to the growing list of those that deal with mothers who clearly were not meant to have children. The father here is certainly no angel, either. Nor, as it turns out, is the newly arrived nanny.
None of this is to deny the fact that the Profiles production is excellent. Directed with harrowing precision by Joe Jahraus, it is being performed by a cast of four that might very well require therapy by the end of the run. To be sure, the characters in the hellish household depicted in “Our New Girl” could keep a team of psychiatrists busy for decades.
‘OUR NEW GIRL’
When: Through June 28
Where: Profiles Theatre, 4139 N. Broadway
Tickets: $35- $40
Info: (773) 549-1815;www. profilestheatre.org
Run time: 2 hours with one intermission
The Robinsons, the family at the play’s center, lack none of the material things in life. They live in a posh London neighborhood, their sleek stainless steel kitchen (expertly designed by Tyler Reinert) is of the upscale variety, and there is talk of some very appealing vacations that have been taken.
Hazel (the London-bred Sarah Chalcroft, fearless in her “mommie dearest” turn), is pregnant with her second child. An accomplished lawyer, she has given up her practice in favor of a home-based business as an olive oil importer — an enterprise that clearly can’t feed her ego or competitiveness. Meanwhile, her husband, Richard (Layne Manzer, just arrogant and sexy enough), a handsome, celebrated plastic surgeon who leaves home for long periods to tend to the mothers and children in disaster areas like Haiti, rarely stops to think that his own son, eight-year-old Daniel (Killian Hughes, a wiry, stoic fifth- grader who gives a chilling performance), is in dire straits.
The play begins as Hazel, in a state of high anxiety, finds Annie (Miriam Canfield, spot-on in her many guises) at her door. A nanny from rural Ireland, Annie comes bearing a contract that has been arranged, long distance, by Richard, who believes this will be the answer to his wife’s (otherwise unanswered) call for help. But Hazel, no matter how lonely, does not want an outsider in her midst, particularly one who (at least initially), demonstrates all the skills needed to break through to Daniel. The boy, understandably, is angry, hurting and acting out in the most serious ways — suffering from a combination of neglect and passive-aggressive treatment by his mother.
Things go from bad to worse once Richard arrives home. Unresponsive to his wife, who wants him to stay put rather than flying off to pick up some award at which he expects her to be his “trophy wife,” there is now a three-way battle (father, mother, nanny) over how to deal with Daniel. And then (spoiler alert here), the child is betrayed by all three adults as Annie confides a dark secret to Richard, and one thing leads to another, and Daniel sees far more than a child should see.
Can this family and its “new girl” be saved? I seriously doubt it. To be sure, each member of the audience for this excruciating play will decide who deserves the lion’s share of the blame. But no one will argue that it is far too late to save this child.