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Sunday 14 July 2013

The American Plan, Play by R. Greenberg, St. James Theatre, London, 8* out of 10

The Catskills in the early 1960s. Eva (Diana Quick), her daughter Lily (Emily Taaffe) and Olivia (Dona Croll), her black "dame de compagnie" and chaperone to Lily have rented a cottage across the lake from a large hotel. Here the middle class Jews of New York City spend their summer vacation on the “American Plan”-package, the all you can eat Jewish cuisine XXL food and entertainment option in which the hotels in the Catskills specialise.  Eva is a refugee from Nazi Germany; Lily, her highly strung daughter, struggles to cope with her mother’s overbearing need to control her life. Olivia mediates between the two with forbearance and wisdom. When Nick, a good looking young man swims over from the hotel to the cottage the sparks soon begin to fly.

American Plan starts with a splash and develops into a complex family drama with deep social comment. The characters created by David Greenberg in this play from 1990, are interesting and have depth. They each carry within them their very own American Plan: a design for overcoming personal trauma and finding one’s own path in the pursuit of happiness.

David Grindley’s production shines with excellent acting performances throughout; despite this already high standard, Emily Taaffe stands out with a breathtakingly authentic performance as the highly sensitive and at the same time strong-willed Lily. 

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