Anthem Theatre at Theater! Theatre!, 3430 SE Belmont, 238-7680, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, through Sept. 25, $15
Set entirely in a Scottish prison, Rona Munro's Iron centers around Fay (Lorraine Bahr), a woman who killed her husband with a knife and is paying the price with a life sentence. One day, 15 years after the crime, her only daughter, Josie (Sabra Choi), all grown up, comes to visit, and the two begin to tentatively rebuild a long-broken relationship through hour-long conversations in the prison's visiting area. Along with two brooding, nosey security guards (the wonderful Ted Schulz and Andrea White), two unresolved issues cast a cloud over their increasingly loving repartee: 1) Did Josie witness the grisly killing, and 2) Why did Fay do it? The play is one long, slow build towards answering those burning questions.
With British plays in America, there's always a question whether a production should maintain the funny accents or not. Good director Devan McCoy has decided on yes, and the choice doesn't trip things up too badly. The two grizzled veterans, Bahr and Schulz, handle their accents like pros, chewing on them instead of being chewed by them. Schulz does the most with the least as a guard both menacing and tender. Bahr is always good and tough, and she is perfectly cast as the troubled Fay. Even in a butchy security get-up, Andrea White can't hide her radiance, but she also exudes strength and grit as Fay's nemesis inside the slammer. Choi has perhaps the toughest job as the daughter who must learn to love anew the bitter thing her mother has become. A relative newcomer, Choi has a wide-eyed appeal that will serve her well down the road, but here she fails to fully connect with Bahr, never letting us see how she could love this woman. It also doesn't help that her Scottish accent sounds straight out of Fargo, and that she looks as much like Bahr's daughter as I look like Chelsea Clinton (very little).
But Iron is still an interesting play that will get better over its three-week run. It's refreshing to see theater with the guts to move at such a careful and calculated pace.