Tonight I saw The Vertical Hour, a Broadway play written in 2005. Which, by the way, is where I saw Kim Cattrall! Anyway, the main character is a politics professor at Yale University, Nadia. She goes on a vacation to Wales with her boyfriend Phillip to meet his father Oliver, at Oliver’s home. Aside from two of Nadia’s students who play minor roles, these are the only characters in the play. Also, Phillip and Nadia are a very young and good looking couple. Almost too young and good looking to be believable in their roles, though the acting was very strong. The set is amazing and very high tech. The stage is entirely flat but the center of it is able to rotate 360 degrees. The lighting was amazing, using many jewel colors to indicate the setting and time of day as well as very clear lighting to indicate a sunrise or sunset. The entire play consists of conversations between various characters. This, in my opinion, is one of the play’s flaws, there is very little action. Essentially, Nadia is a former international journalist and humanitarian who supported the Iraq war because she believed in liberating the Iraqis from a dictator. Her boyfriend is a physical therapist/personal trainer who is British, but lives in the United States. The two met at a gym and she appreciates him because he is nothing like her.

Nadia meets Phillip’s father, a general practitioner who is quite liberal. He seems to be fairly conservative in dress and manor, but the audience learns was part of the free love movement and is a big philanderer, though Phillip’s mother is no longer alive. Clearly, Nadia and Oliver disagree on the Iraq War. Phillip does not have a good relationship with his father, mainly because his father’s free love and philandering caused Phillip’s mother great pain. Additionally, Oliver was at one time sleeping with an acquaintance and when driving her home one afternoon, signaled left when he meant to signal right, crashing into an 80 year old man who was driving on the wrong side of the road. The man died, but so did Oliver’s fling who had been sitting in the front seat of Oiver’s car. Because of his father’s history with women, might try to seduce Nadia.

Nadia describes her political expereinces, including being called to the Whitehouse as one of Bush’s advisors on Iraq, being sneered at by snotty students at Yale who say she was wrong about the Iraq war, and working as a journalist in various areas of political turmoil when to her dismay, her stories seem to have little affect those who read them. The trip is not going well until Nadia and Oliver have a discussion in the early morning while Phillip is still asleep. They discuss politics and personal stories, including the story of Oliver’s accident that killed two people. Oliver tells Nadia she seems like a person who has been in love, but has been hurt by love very badly. Nadia changes the subject, but later reveals that she fell in love with a journalist who had been killed when she was abroad. That’s when Oliver describes the verticle hour: “In combat medicine, there’s this moment…after a disaster, after a shooting-there’s this moment, the vertical hour, when you can actually be of some use”. This is the theme of the play: of what use are different people to you? The play closes with Nadia and Phillip getting into an argument over Nadia’s conversation with Oliver, though the couple reconciles and agrees to leave later that day. The next scene reveals that Nadia has broken up with Phillip and is leaving her position at Yale to return to journalism, starting with coverage of Iraq.

Originally published 2/26/08