There’s a commendable degree of ambition to House of Mirth’s new play Chihuahua, but the execution isn’t there to match it.
Phil Bartlett and Sarah MacGillivray’s show splices together two stories: the narrative of Edith Wharton’s 1905 novel The House Of Mirth – the book that gives Bartlett and MacGillivray’s company its name – and a present-day drama set in Edinburgh.
In Wharton’s novel, Lily, a flighty, high-society New Yorker, falls apart as her financial fortunes fade and her social status suffers. In Bartlett and MacGillivray’s modern parallel, Becky quits her job in a coffee shop and flies to Spain to start a new life. It doesn’t work out. MacGillivray, under Barton’s direction, plays both Lily and Becky, flipping between monologues for 50 minutes straight.
There’s plenty of good stuff going on here – commentaries on the social pressures that come with age, and on the mental health problems that can accompany feelings of failure – but that doesn’t save Chihuahua from becoming tedious.
MacGillivray is a competent performer, switching between frustrated Edinburgh lass and angsty 1900s New Yorker nicely, but the play just isn’t interesting enough – structurally, directorially, or dramatically – proceeding in chunk after chunk with little jeopardy and even less humour.