American playwright Sophie Treadwell, who died in 1970, wrote 39 plays in her lifetime. Her most famous work is Machinal, revived by the Almeida last year, but most never made it to the stage. Written in 1954, Garry, directed by Graham Watts, is one of her many never-performed plays.
Wilma (Phebe Alys) is a naive young wife in an almost entirely sexless marriage with Garry (Thomas Martin). She has boundless sympathy for his previous criminal past and difficulties finding employment. One evening, Garry goes to a hotel room with an unidentified powerful local citizen under the pretence of getting a job. After the man tries to make Garry have sex with him, Garry either accidentally or deliberately kills him.
Treadwell’s play is notable for its non-judgemental portrayal of homosexuality. It also casts an interesting light on the role of unresolved parental issues and childhood memories in adult life.
Watts’ staging, set entirely in one room of an apartment, captures the boredom and constriction of Wilma’s existence, while Emma Boomer’s attractive 1950s costume design succinctly reflects the characters’ trajectories.
However, the production slides too close to melodrama at times and drags in its pacing. The play itself is nowhere close to flawless. But with its sharp perception of human relationships, the strangling effect of poverty and social mores, there’s enough here to make you wonder what else is lurking in the Treadwell archive.