By David Walters
That’s why APOLOGIA (first performed in 2009) is currently running here in the US, having just got off the boat from London’s West End. It’s a vehicle to showcase her talents, to show the world that at 74 (go girl!) she’s very viable as a person, as a woman, as an actress, as an artist, possessing depth, appeal, strength and power. She’s why I signed up to review. I’m glad I did.
APOLOGIA (a formal written defense of one’s opinions or conduct, “not to be mistaken for an apology”) is a slightly stiff kitchen-sink drama (and all the other creative choices: directing, set, lighting, costumes, acting choices, followed suit) about the justifiable outrage of badly mothered sons Peter and Simon (both played by Hugh Dancy), and a defensive mom KristinMiller (Stockard Channing) justifying the family’s lives because she really had no other choice. Even though the actors wait for each other to finish before speaking (an applied style to the piece), the characters don’t listen to each other and only complain that no one is listening to them, so there’s never really a conversation.
This is an old-fashioned play in two acts. The script itself is okay, not thought provoking or provocative or surprising, but good enough for all the actors to get a chance to each take the stage with pathos and witty rejoinders, monologues divulging wounded psyches, and plenty of space left on stage for those poison-tipped verbal darts necessary in a family drama. No one takes responsibility for anything and they constantly torture each other, through their own pain, at every turn.
The set up for all the family trouble is that mom has just published a memoir of her life (“My professional life.” she says defiantly) prophetically called APOLOGIA, that did not include any mention of her sons. The boys are pissed because the exclusion said to them, mom never cared. Mom is defensive. After her father kidnapped the boys when they were 9 and 7, she did not go after them. Instead, she struck out to prove to the world, her sons and herself that her viability as a person was as a renowned art historian and a political anarchist and thus she had no choice.
The obvious elephant in the room, to me anyway, left quietly standing unnoticed on stage that everyone seems to miss, is that the book itself is the excuse to her sons and their absence in it, her apology. (If that doesn’t make sense to you after seeing the play, let me know and we’ll get coffee.)
The last moment in the play, acted with a beautiful guttural rawness by Miss Channing, reflected that thought, emptiness being the loudest sound in this play.
WITH: Stockard Channing (Kristin), Hugh Dancy (Peter and Simon), Megalyn Echikunwoke (Claire), Talene Monahon (Trudi) and John Tillinger (Hugh)
APOLOGIA presented by Roundabout Theatre at the Laura Pels Theatre in the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre (111 West 46th Street). The cast includes: Stockard Channing, Hugh Dancy, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Talene Monahon and John Tillinger.
The run time is approximately 2 hours and 10 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission. Limited engagement through December 16, 2018.