You don’t go to “dinner theatre” at the Mill to have your mind changed about the world: a comforting, home-style supper is generally followed by comforting entertainment. A platform for Euripides or Sarah Kane this is not, so you might as well enjoy the charm of the surroundings - a converted 18th-century flour mill on the Thames - and take a holiday from the news bulletins. Bernard Slade’s I Remember You fits the bill exactly.
Feckless, middle-aged piano player Buddy falls in love with Stacey when they meet by chance in a (strangely underpopulated) Manhattan piano bar. His instant attraction may, however, be due to the fact that he had a passionate, ten-week fling with her mother, Prunella, 25 years previously. Stacey has been married already, so her surname doesn’t provide a clue. All is revealed when she takes Buddy home to meet his prospective mother-in-law. Embarrassed, he clamps a shopping carrier over his head - an oddly farcical moment in an otherwise pretty conventional romantic comedy.
English Prunella, now widowed, writes and illustrates children’s books about a raccoon bearing an uncanny resemblance (well, her publisher can spot it anyway) to Buddy, the lover who ultimately failed to carry her off all those years ago. Does she still love him? Will Buddy marry Stacey or elope with Prunella? The plot is simple enough, with few surprises. Some ideas are sketched in about advancing years not necessarily leading to maturity and about fantasy being more rewarding when left unfulfilled, but there’s nothing to disturb your post-prandial comfort.
Michael Howe as Buddy has a roué’s raddled charm and makes a credible crooner trading on the potency of cheap music (and, yes, they do quote Private Lives). Mary Conlon’s Prunella carries the moral weight of the piece in a suitably dreamy manner, but seems rather underpowered in what should be quick-fire exchanges with Buddy.
There are some genuinely funny lines. Try “Inside every extrovert there’s an introvert struggling to stay in”, but the biggest laugh is reserved, revealingly perhaps, for: “Do you know the average age of cruise passengers? Dead.”
Stacey is attractively played by Emma Barton despite lines which suggest she’s both a flirtatious sexpot and an emotionally arid careerist. Martyn Stanbridge in the small role of love-sick publisher Oliver gets his laughs spot-on. If, despite the accents, Alvin Rakoff’s production feels more Henley-on-Thames than New York, no one in the audience seemed to mind.