Honour at the Jungle Theater

I suppose after To be or not to be, the next logical question is To be or not to be with this person? One individual's constancy and fidelity can be regarded as another's cowardly retreat from passion and immediacy. Or so might say Joanna Murray-Smith, the Australian who wrote Honour, which is given an absorbing and forceful local premiere at the Jungle. Allen Hamilton and Camille D'Ambrose, real-life spouses, portray George and Honour, a couple whose 32-year marriage is rocked by the arrival of sexy careerist hussy Claudia (Carolyn Pool), who awakens in George appetites both carnal and spiritual that he hadn't realized he was suppressing. George handles things with an appalling lack of grace, essentially bailing out on Honour without warning. The balance of the drama deals with the fallout of this destruction of order. The play is constructed as a succession of scenes of similar length, and director Bain Boehlke was correct in describing it recently as like a "series of waves." (Look for a profile of Boehlke in next week's City Pages.) The dramatic action, on a stripped-down stage, puts the characters in various combinations and expertly explores their psyches through terrifically focused dialogue and exemplary acting. Hamilton gives his character a sort of wincing mortification in the face of D'Ambrose's brittle intelligence and depth. He also moves past apology in a painfully sparkling scene with Tracey Maloney as daughter Sophie. On opening night last Friday, the engrossed audience found a good deal of unexpected humor in the first act, which was a welcome twist on a drama that is so unflinching in its examination of long-term life choices. Maloney also distinguishes herself by not overloading a character that's intended not to know herself entirely well. Throw in an evocative score by Roberta Carlson, and you have a completely successful endeavor on the stage. Interestingly, like a lot of enduring works, it will elicit different reactions depending on the age and experience of each viewer. Have an argument afterward!