“It just reaches much further into the psyche and the heart, and the characters are able to express themselves more fully and more honestly. The challenge was to do that naturalistically and for it not to sound odd, and I think we’ve achieved that,” she says.
“Of all the plays I’ve ever done, and I’ve done a lot, this one provokes the most after play discussions. It’s fascinating to see where people’s sympathies lie when the play ends.”
Meanwhile, O’Brien herself is gratified by the play’s success, even before it opened.
“I’m a little nervous, a little exhausted, but a little hopeful too,” O’Brien tells the Irish Voice, referring to the enthusiastic response the play’s been getting from the audience.
O’Brien also makes no apology for the language of the play, which she admits is heightened.
“What I find very depressing in modern times is the flatness and banality of language. In the play the heightened language is mixed in with ordinary language. Mr. Berry is a dreamer. He wises he has been a poet. His interest in language has had an influence on his wife.”
What happens to the characters, without giving the plot away, is shocking, but in a way that’s to be expected, O’Brien suggests.
“In my opinion wherever there’s love, in certain types of characters, there’s madness,” she says.
So when Hazel enters their lives as an unwilling catalyst she unmasks the hidden dreams and longings that the Berrys (and of course, we the audience) carry with them.
“Mr. Berry does love Mrs. Berry, even though he’s faithless. He wants his youth again, just like I want my youth again, and I know we’re not going to get it,” O’Brien says.
“The only way I can get it now is by writing about it. And the three actors are absolutely flawless in how they inhabit their parts. I’m just astonished at how well they’re doing it.”
In Haunted, the image of a door closing surpasses any language, O’Brien says.
“It’s a precise and poignant and final image.” Blethyn agrees. “In a way the play is a woman’s fantasy, to catch out your husband in an affair, to prove to yourself that you’ve been right all along about him.”
But the tragedy of that is that it just destroys everything too.
“I have to know what’s in your heart,” Mrs. Berry pleads.
But of course he never answers. Eventually she says, “It’s all right, if you don’t want to tell me that’s all right.”
“And even after all their heartache they still get together again, and are getting along fine, the norm kicks in again and it’s all so tragic,” says Blethyn, erupting in knowing laughter.
For tickets and showtimes for Haunted call 212-279-4200.