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'Skylight' review: Adultery and social justice

Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan in

Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan in "Skylight." Credit: AP / John Haynes

As a math teacher with a social conscience, Kyra understands 1 percent -- quantitatively and politically. In 1995, when David Hare's "Skylight" premiered in London, "1 percent" was not yet a metaphor for income inequality. But today, in a simmer-to-sizzle Broadway revival, the 99 percent are everywhere -- except in the orchestra seats and the shabby flat where Kyra has consigned herself to convent-style isolation.

Before we're immersed in the politics of social justice -- a recurring theme in the Hare canon -- Kyra is confronted with her past as an adulterous concubine of an up-and-coming 1-percenter. Love, loyalty, security and sex are casualties of their annulled six-year affair.

Carey Mulligan as Kyra and Bill Nighy as Tom, a restaurant tycoon, were lovers behind the back of his wife, Alice, who subsequently died of cancer. Kyra learns of Alice's death during a surprise visit by Tom's son just before his father -- supposedly by coincidence -- calls on her for the first time in three years.

As Tom, Nighy ("Love Actually") twitchingly careens about her flat, sniffing for evidence of rival males. He's keen on rekindling their romance. So is she, except Kyra won't admit it, even to herself. There's far more heat emitted by Mulligan and Nighy than by Kyra's plug-in radiator on this midwinter evening. That's why Tom refuses to doff his tailored overcoat, contrasting with Kyra's ascetic attire. A backdrop of tiered flats (set and costumes by Bob Crowley) typecasts the neighborhood, which, in Tom's eyes, is as ghastly as the cheese he's asked to grate for a spaghetti dinner prepared for real onstage.

Although Nighy's mannerisms befit a control freak in a situation beyond his control, at first it's hard not to notice that he's Bill Nighy as played by Tom, rather than the other way around. But as the havoc of their past unravels, Nighy inhabits Tom as if life depended on it. As Kyra, Mulligan argues with defensive passion the virtue of serving poor kids, while utterly disarming us with repressed remorse and longing. Affectingly directed by Stephen Daldry, "Skylight" preaches at times. But Kyra's message needs to be heard. So does Tom's counterpoint that she's denying herself a life. Matthew Beard as Tom's son is so spot-on in his demeanor that we might mistake him for Nighy's birth son.

"Skylight," a reference to Alice's deathbed view, glimmers with the expectations, disappointments and complications of life.

WHAT "Skylight"

WHEN | WHERE Through June 21, John Golden Theatre, 252 W. 45th St., between Broadway and Eighth Avenue

TICKETS $60-$149; 212-239-6200,

BOTTOM LINE Passions and principles collide.

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