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The Last Yankee review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘over-literal’

Pauline Turner and Jane McCarry in The Last Yankee at Summerhall, Edinburgh. Photo: Paul Kozinski Pauline Turner and Jane McCarry in The Last Yankee at Summerhall, Edinburgh. Photo: Paul Kozinski
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Intense and packing powerful central performances, Rapture Theatre finds some of the resonances of Arthur Miller’s 1993 play, but not enough to make it feel complete.

Director Michael Emans brings a naturalness to the meeting, in the waiting room of a state mental institution, of two husbands come to visit their wives who are suffering from depression. David Tarkenter’s well-spoken Leroy Hamilton, a descendent of one of America’s founding fathers but a carpenter by trade, and Stewart Porter’s brash entrepreneurial John Frick, capture the tensions of the exchange superbly.

And there is a real understanding of the issues of mental health surrounding the two wives, with Pauline Turner’s Patricia Hamilton almost ready to leave but Jane McCarry’s Karen Frick just arrived. McCarry is particularly well-observed as the heavily medicated Karen who can’t follow a train of thought, bouncing away from Turner’s bright Patricia.

The production soars when the Hamiltons meet, with a thoroughly dangerous edge to both performances, as their underlying issues come crackling to the surface. While McCarry’s creation of Karen and her need to be acknowledged for herself points to the fact that it is not the individual who needs treatment, but the society in which they live.

But in finding such a strong link to the literal mental health issues of the script, Emans strips out its understanding of American class and privilege, the resonances of which make this an outright condemnation of modern America’s subversion of the founding father’s dream. It doesn’t help that, without an interval, structurally it feels like the first act of much larger piece.

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Over-literal take on Arthur Miller feels incomplete despite superb individual performances