When you come up the stairs to the Royal Court Upstairs Theatre, an usher tells you to follow the corridor to Flat #11. So you go down a created hallway with flat doors, open the door to 11 and find yourself in a sloppy London apartment. Magazines, glasses, ashtrays are strewed about. You take one of the eighty or so seats ranged in two rows on three sides of this playing area. Doing so, you have entered the world of three twenty-something young women, the world of teenage playwright Anya Reiss's second hit in a year, THE ACID TEST. Reiss writes what she knowes, the world of young women like herself (you can't fault her for that) and she writes about it brilliantly. The language rings true, but it is also witty and polished. The charaters could be like those in a sitcom -- the pretty blonde who sleeps around, the brunette who has a disastrous breakup with her countercultural boyfriend, the serious one with family issues. But, unlike sitcom writing committees, Reiss cares about truth of character. On one rainy night, the serious one brings her father back to the flat. He has left home because his wife is having an affair with their roofing contractor. What transpires is a night of drinking, smoking (tobacco and pot), dancing, and confessing. The middle-aged father tries to become the pals to his daughter's roommates and rather viciously tries to set them against her. The roomates try to deal with their disastrous love lives. THE ACID TEST is best when it stays funny. The long father-daughter confrontation doesn't ring quite as true as the drunken banter that precedes it. It has received a perfect production. Reiss's plays probably benefit from being in the intimate upstairs theater. Simon Godwin's idea of giving the play an almost environmental presentation was an excellent one. All three girls are totally convincing and Denis Lawson captures all the facets of the father, surprisingly the best written of the characters (Reiss seems to be particularly good with fathers).
Once again, the Royal Court has picked a winner.
THE ACID TEST. Royal Court Jerwood Upstairs Theatre. June 4, 2011.