Set in 1944 wartime London, Less Than Kind is a comedy concerning the lives of Olivia Brown, her teenage son Michael, and her paramour, Sir John Fletcher. Olivia (Lisa-Gabrielle Green) is very sweet-natured and enthusiastic. She and John live in a posh home, employing servants and a secretary. The two are very much in love, dealing with John's estranged wife as best they can, while John navigates affairs of state. John is a Tory War Minister. Having graduated from high school, Michael (Zak Reynolds) has returned, Olivia overjoyed to see him. The couple try to conceal their arrangement, but without much success. Michael is appalled that his mother is living in sin with a Conservative and compels her to choose between John (Paul T. Taylor) and himself by moving out. Olivia, heartbroken, follows him, to rather humble digs.
Michael's problem is the same as most teenage boys, he's nearly a grown man, but also very intense, tending to see morals in absolute terms. He hasn't lived long enough to see how impractical abstractions can be when you're actually trying to get on in the world. It's not that he doesn't want his mother to be happy, exactly. He just doesn't see how she can or should, being the mistress of a man with questionable politics, and no guarantee of matrimony in the foreseeable future. For Olivia's part, she freely admits to enjoying her privileged existence, but then, it's also very clear that she and Sir John adore each other. She really has no desire to understand politics. So it's not as if she were some gold-digging trollop, forfeiting ideology for the sake creature comforts. And when she is forced to choose, she does pick her son.
Less Than Kind is a clever escapade, that examines secondary, subtextual issues in a cursory way. It digs just deep enough to enhance the humor. Playwright Sir Terence Rattigan was inspired by Hamlet to consider this Oedipal dynamic, in which the son uncovers treachery in his mother's bed. This may be the premise, but Rattigan is less interested in exploring darker motives, than depicting the foibles of the human condition. Michael wouldn't be the first boy to feel keen suspicion towards his mother's subsequent partners (after dad) and Olivia wouldn't be the first woman to leave the travails of class struggle to the men, dubious as this notion is today. All this being said., Less Than Kind is pleasant, sharp, amusing and wise in a relaxed way, with excellent, versatile work by the cast.
Theatre 3 presents Less Than Kind, playing March 6th-30th, 2014. 2800 Routh Street, Suite 168, Dallas, Texas 75201. 214-871-3300. www.theatre3dallas.com