Catherine Brown

The American Plan

August 2013



The play’s St James’s Theatre website


2nd July – 10th August 2013 St James Theatre, London

Theatre Royal Bath production

Playwright Richard Greenberg, director David Grindley, cast includes Diana Quick, Luke Allen-Gale, Emily Taaffe, Dona Croll

If you like plays well-made, their dialogue sparkling, and their atmosphere bitter-sweet, you’ll like this.

The setting is a lake in the Catskills in the 1950s. Eva, a wealthy German Jewish immigrant played by Diana Quick, spends every summer there with her daughter – purportedly in the hope that she will one day find a man. This summer Lili finds one – a highly plausible, Yankily attractive one who has swum from the all-inclusive (‘American Plan’) package holiday resort on the far side of the lake. He likes, she likes. The troubles are: she is neurotic and manipulative; her mother is fork-tongued; the aspirant architect is too good to be true. Most of what the audience thinks at any stage in the play is eventually undermined; this much eventually becomes, however, clear: that the play is not going to allow Lili happiness. This is tragedy in 1950s sepia tones.

I was detached enough from Lili’s zany instability for this in itself not to be depressing. On the contrary – the play offered a highly entertaining two hours of iridescent dialogue and plot, the latter rich with resonances of Brokeback Mountain, The Great Gatsby, Ibsen, and most of all Chekhov (as in many of his plays, the characters are just not cut out to achieve joy). Some reviewers singled out Emily Taaffe (Lili) as the play’s star; for me it was Diana Quick (Eva) – inscrutable of ethics and purpose, hyper-intelligent, knowing, and with every speech as brilliant, beautiful, shifting, and dangerous as mercury.

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Catherine Brown