Last night, Skylight won a Tony award for best revival of a play. While I wrote a theater column for a local newspaper once, I didn’t expect to write a play review on my food blog. That is, until I saw Skylight. Skylight is about many things, mostly relationships, but it is also about food and the food industry. The two main characters are a successful restaurateur, Tom, and his younger former employee, Kyra. As we watch, we learn that they were once lovers, but when Tom’s wife found out about the affair, Kyra left. The two lovers are reunited years later, when Tom visits Kyra after his wife dies. Kyra now teaches underpriviliged kids and lives in a shanty apartment on the poor side of town. During this reunion, they argue and discuss their lives and views of the world while she attempts to cook spaghetti–another thing they argue about. Tom wants to go to a restaurant for a real meal, and when Kyra asks him to grate the cheese, he scoffs at the tiny pebble of cheese she has.
Onstage, to make the sauce, she really chops onions and carrots with a knife. As she was talking and chopping, her eyes kept leaving the cutting board, and I was afraid she’d cut her finger. She put the vegetables in the pot and it sizzled. At first, I thought it might be sound effects until I could smell the onions cooking (my seats were close to the stage). She also added chopped meat. During intermission, a stage hand came to fiddle with the pot. I think he must’ve replaced the chopped meat sauce with a cooked version, as Kyra eats a bit of it later.
Both Nighy and Mulligan are excellent actors who played these parts well. The age difference of the actors was a bit of a stretch for me for a passionate love story, but it is explained away by Kyra’s naivete when they initially met. Perhaps she admired Tom for working his way to the top? They have opposite life experiences–Tom was once poor but became wealthy and Kyra was wealthy but lives meagerly. The person who started out poor (Tom) is pro-capitalism while the person who started out wealthy (Kyra) is anti-capitalism. Both characters are very focused on social class. While the play is about Tom and Kyra’s relationship and attraction, which is passionate, or explosive, the play also touches on what I suspect are the playwright’s views on social class, including education, housing, wealth and opportunity. At times, these ideas seem less like Kyra’s and more like the playwright taking a political liberty (no matter how much I agreed with it). With the back and forth arguing and contrived conversation, the play itself fell a bit flat for me. Despite some of the play’s failings, one thing that intrigued me was the food symbolism.
While they never eat the spaghetti, Kyra makes a late night snack of a peanut butter sandwich. It seems like she is always preparing food, but in the end, no one ever eats because they are busy arguing about their different world views. When she finally eats, the food is prepared for her–when Tom’s son brings her breakfast from the Ritz. He makes this gesture because he wants her to reunite with his father, and because she said breakfast was the one thing she missed.
Skylight runs only through June 21, so get your tickets now.
Where to eat near the show:
If the frying of onions gets you in the mood for spaghetti, Carmine’s Italian is around the block on 44th. Also, John’s of Time Square pizza is too. For a classic NY experience, Frankie & Johnnie’s steakhouse is across the street. Junior’s diner is on the same block. Reunion surf bar is an avenue over. Shake Shack is a block south. Carlo’s Cake Boss bakery is two blocks south. Restaurant Row is one block north.