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a delicate balance

'Wankel Evenwicht', a Dutch rendition of Edward Albee's 'A Delicate Balance' by Carver and Onafhankelijk Toneel at the Toneelschuur, provided captivating acting all around. But it also proved the difficulty of getting the right balance (excuse the pun) between sarcastic wit and formal dialogue, painful drama and absurdist elements this play offers.

Though not quite as vicious as 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf', the play has a similar setup. It takes place entirely in the household of a long-married middle class couple, Tobias and Agnes, and unravels their fragile peace through outside forces. Buried deep beneath the surface of their placid lives, they are still struggling to come to grips with the death of their son. Living with them is Agnes' alcoholic sister Claire, who provides sarcastic commentary "from the sideline." And Julia, the couple's only daughter, is coming home from a failed marriage, her fourth.

All this promises to upset the delicate balance of this household, but the real blow comes when Harry and Edna, the couple's best friends, arrive unannounced. It takes a while before they explain their presence, and when they do the story takes an absurdist turn.

We were sitting home, all alone... and we got frightened. There was nothing... but we were very scared.

It becomes apparent that Harry and Edna intend to stay, and they take Julia's old room, making her homecoming seem more unwanted than ever. Yet however strange their behavior, Tobias and Agnes couldn't turn down their best friends, or could they? While Agnes comes to perceive Harry and Edna's invasion as a plague, Tobias will not forsake his best friends - even if it will ruin his family.

Things do unravel, of course, and a new balance needs to be found for all involved. It is Agnes, finally, who sums up the anxiety underlying all their problems.

Time happens, I suppose... to people. Everything becomes... too late, finally. You know it's going on... up on the hill; you can see the dust, and hear the cries, and the steel... but you wait; and time happens. When you do go... finally... there's nothing there... save rust; bones; and the wind.
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