The Retreat ★★ Finborough Theatre | Apr 25 - May 13, 2023


Jason Sherman's The Retreat has a lot, probably too much, going on. It is a play that seems designed for the classroom rather than the stage. There is a layering of stories and a lecturing on a variety of subjects that inhibits emotional engagement in the narrative. Ostensibly, the story is about Rachel who wants to be a playwright and goes on a retreat for aspiring writers. She becomes involved with her teacher, writer/producer David, who has a complicated connection with his business partner, Jeff. It all becomes a twisted game of who is manipulating whom and to what ends. This relationship is mirrored in Rachel's play which deals with the life of the 17th Century Jewish mystic, Zvi, and by the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It all becomes a lot to process, and added to this are lessons about playwriting that might apply both to the characters' current situation and to their parts in this fiction. It's all very 'meta'. As Rachel, Jill Winternitz brings a sincerity to her role that is engaging and believable, but Max Rinehart's David came across as wooden and unconvincing. The intention may have been to leave the audience in doubt as to his sincerity but the flirtation/seduction dialogues simply never rang true. Rinehart has some clunky lines to deliver and the romantic scenes just seemed awkward. Michael Feldsher's Jeff was persuasively mercenary and manipulative but the characterisation sometimes bordered on caricature. At times, the tone of this work echoes that of Neil LaBute, but the darkness of Sherman's vision is both more nuanced and more ambiguous. While The Retreat addresses a great many issues, in the end it is a play about playwriting which doesn't really produce an engaging drama.

Rated: ★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Ali Wright.

Want to save on tickets? See our Tips page.

When, Where, Getting there:

Most Popular

St. Martin in-the-fields: Lunchtime Concerts ★★★★ FREE

Naked Boys Singing, The Garden Theatre at The Eagle - ★★★★ - Until October 25, 2020

The Last Caravaggio ★★★★ The National Gallery | Apr 18 - Jul 21, 2024 (Free Entry)

London Tide ★★★ National Theatre | Apr 10 - Jun 22, 2024

Player Kings ★★★★★ Noël Coward Theatre | Apr 1 - Jun 22, 2024

Calendar Girls ★★★ The Mill at Sonning | Apr 11 - Jun 1, 2024

Howerd's End, Golden Goose Theatre - ★★★★★ - Until October 31, 2020

Your Lie In April – The Musical in Concert ★★★★★ Theatre Royal Drury Lane | April 8 & 9, 2024

The Comeuppance ★★★★★ Almeida Theatre | Apr 6 - May 18, 2024

Foam ★★★★ Finborough Theatre | Mar 19 - Apr 13, 2024

The City Life Magazine | Reviews & Ratings