DONALD Margulies’ play The Model Apartment was first seen in the US in the late 1980s. It is set over one night in a show apartment in Florida, where Lola and Max have been directed pending the completion of the apartment they have bought.
The decor might be early Trump luxury, albeit cramped, but the real setting is in Brooklyn, in those famous beech woods that seemed to have surrounded German extermination camps and in Bergen-Belsen itself.
This is a play about survivors’ guilt and about its effects on future generations. Laurence Boswell’s taut and poignant production balances between dream (more accurately nightmare) and reality.
Lola (Diana Quick) and Max (Ian Gelder) arrive in the dark after driving from New York. They find that the agent has moved them into a flat in which the television has no working parts, the ornaments are stuck down and the fridge has no plug.
They determine to make the most of it, preparing for a night of celebration, when the bell rings and their troubled daughter is on the doorstep. And as soon as the three have settled to uncomfortable sleep in this one-room, pull-down-bed apartment, glass is smashed and the daughter’s boyfriend turns up through a rear window.
Emily Bruni, who plays both Max’s lost German daughter and his daughter with Lola, has a speech of extraordinary power in which she describes the effect of her parents’ memories of their escape/survival from the war on her own life. It’s mesmerising and unforgettably descriptive, encapsulating the play in a few lines.
If you apply reason, it is clear that neither the daughter nor the boyfriend could possibly have found Lola and Max in their temporary Florida apartment.
This is about a night of confronting a life spent in flight, a life of unsatisfied hopes and a life of guilt so corrosive that it leaves no space for peace.
The Model Apartment runs until 22nd December.