The Finborough Theatre has more hits than misses, but this overwrought American drama has to go in the latter category for me. Noah Haidle's Saturn Returns all takes place in one room (Bec Chippendale's set is beautifully atmospheric,) on three days spanning 60 years in the life of Gustin Novak. Aged 88 (Richard Evans) Gustin is still physically able, but has hired a home help simply to help combat his desperate loneliness. We then flash back to two crucial days from his past, where 58 (Nicholas Gecks) argues with his daughter Zephyr, not realising it's the last time'll ever see her; and further back to the happiest day of his life when 28 (Christopher Harper) is preparing to take his wife Loretta out for the night. Zephyr will be conceived that night, but Loretta will die in childbirth.
It's a pretty unrelenting study of grief, as the older versions have spent the intervening years in mourning, first for Loretta and then for both her and Zephyr. Gustin's not to blame for the twin tragedies in his life but it's him who wallows in them, deciding he'll never be happy again and dismissing anyone trying to help him, so he's not easy to sympathise with. Structurally it's awkward as well - 88's role in the play seems to shift constantly, from living his own scenes to narrating parts of the others' (right down to requesting sound effects) and occasionally interacting with the ghosts of 58 and 28 and I never felt as if there was a clear reason for the various dramatic devices used. Haidle's language tends towards the poetic, which is fine in itself but does provide problems, especially for the strikingly pretty Lisa Caruccio Came. Playing all three female roles she does a good job trying to differentiate between them but can only do so much when their language is so similar. This is especially noticeable since they're women from different generations - near the end I had a feeling I couldn't put my finger on, that there just wasn't anything remotely "1950" about the way Loretta speaks. The best scenes are those between the cantankerous but endearing 88 and his home help but on the whole a promising premise gets mired in hystrionics and doesn't ultimately say much.
Saturn Returns by Noah Haidle is booking until the 27th of November at the Finborough Theatre.