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Friday, 29 March 2013


Any Drama teacher across the State knows what I’m talking about when I say ‘Bombshells’. I’m not talking about my brief dabble with peroxide as a blonde back when I was 18 (better called a platinum disaster. What was I thinking??). Nor am I talking about the tv-musical drama series ‘Smash’. I am, of course, talking about the Joanna Murray-Smith play featuring six female character monologues, all women in the throes of crisis or discovery and Murray-Smith’s play has become a staple for teenage girls to perform for their final performance exams with mixed success.

So it was with curiosity I headed along to the Ensemble Theatre to see ‘Bombshells’ as I’ve never seen it performed by anyone apart from 17 or 18 year olds. Directed by Sandra Bates and starring Sharon Millerchip, this is a smart choice for Ensemble to include in their season. Each character represents different ages and personalities and there is something for everyone in this play.  

Millerchip carries this show and I will say this, she is an exceptionally skilled performer. I could not even touch the sides of the talent she has. Her range is phenomenal. You couldn’t ask for more accents and we got plenty…plenty… I wish she gave us less. I wish that instead of showing us everything she could do, she gave us what was most appropriate for the characters.

The issue that comes from showing me your showbag of credentials is that it feels contrived on stage. I felt at times that instead of concentrating on the journey of the character and their response to the events unfolding in front of them, I was watching a very accomplished performer giving me her show reel.

It comes down to Bates. Sandra Bates would have directed those choices, perhaps to make as clear as possible the differentiation between characters and to maximise her casting choice and because Millerchip can do them (I suspect she could do anything), then there’s nothing stopping that directorial choice.

It’s not as if the play doesn’t work. There were genuine moments of laugh-out-loud audience responses in each monologue and Millerchip is utterly transformative. But the first half especially felt out of sync, hit and miss, forced. And even the vocal clarity suffered in some accents, like with Mary O’Donnell. I like to do a little interval eavesdrop and a number of patrons seemed to remark that they struggled to understand what she was saying. Sure, maybe they left their hearing aids at home but I think the point is valid. Tiggy Entwhistle was another character where the pace of the piece seemed to drag in long thoughtful pauses that seemed overplayed.

But come the second half of the show, we got all the things missing in the first half and I especially loved the vocal response of the crowd to characters such as Winsome Webster, widow, and I have never heard the sounds of complete empathy coming from a crowd like I heard in the Ensemble that night. It was an oldie’s catharsis. And then with a strong finish, Zoe Struthers entered the space and Millerchip’s ability to play off the crowd and improvise around and with them made it a very memorable monologue indeed. I thought one woman and her husband in the front row might have needed emergency services and an oxygen tank they were laughing so hard. Millerchip’s call out to two young women in the crowd of ‘Are you lost?’ practically brought the house down.

The design was wonderfully versatile and I loved that it touched on the domesticity of many of our characters but as a background and not as a defining feature. In fact I might get the designer, Marissa Dale-Johnson to come and renovate my kitchen. Kudos to wardrobe co-ordinator Lissette Endacott for any assistance she may have given Millerchip out there to change so thoroughly for each character. Tony Youlden’s lighting also helped to set the mood, although with Tiggy Entwhistle’s piece, I felt perhaps even the lighting was contrived- lights up bright when Tiggy talks about her marriage and back to normal for the speech to the 'Succulent Society'. I don’t need it ‘highlighted’- I get the metaphor loud and clear.

‘Bombshells’ is absolute value for money and if only the first half could have matched the energy and rhythm of the second half without feeling the choices were contrived, then the show would have been explosive.

Instead ‘Bombshells’ is like a sparkler: pretty and sustained but nothing to get too excited over. 

Thursday, 28 March 2013


Martin McDonagh is probably the master of black comedy for the stage. He beautifully weaves storytelling with highly emotional or socially dysfunctional characters, fantastical events, technical wizardry and all made to seem like the most normal of circumstances under crazy duress. Amongst it all, the text is brilliant and will do much of the work for you if you let it. In fact, you’d have to try very hard to not make his plays work on the stage. The New Theatre do make 'The Pillowman' work but in all honesty, something is missing.

In the spirit of fairness when I saw this show I was doped up on cold and flu tablets, not for the fun of it, I assure you- I was struck down with a cold but time pressures made me feel that keeping my date with the theatre was more important than a date with my bed and that I was well enough to do it justice. But I can declare that I have had better days so you can take what I say in whatever context you’d like.

To me director Luke Rogers has made a couple of slight misjudgements in realising McDonagh’s play. Firstly, it’s in the casting. Not for one moment do I believe Michal (Michael Howlett) is the older brother of our protagonist Katurian (Oliver Wenn) and maybe in real life, there is that age gap between them but on the stage it doesn’t read this way. You might question whether it matters but it is the relationship and history between them that drives younger brother Katurian to save intellectually-challenged older brother Michal by committing acts of violence to protect him. If the relationship seems incredulous, taking that journey is much, much harder and McDonagh’s plays rely on moments of believing what I call ‘truthful absurdity’ (or is that the flu tablet talking?). Compassionate brother Katurian acts out of character in his violence and we need to feel that relationship has integrity in order for us to go with it. 

The other thing that struck me as hindering the flow of the play’s material comes in what feels like a forced energy and rhythm. I imagine when the play is done in Irish accents the pace of the show runs at a speed conducive to the play’s needs. The Australian accents slow it down but are certainly preferable than bad Irish accents. The play felt like it clunked along at times and I’m presuming that may have been part of the problem. There’s also the danger of playing characters with extreme energy and it feels forced and finding the balance between the inquisitiveness of Michal contrasted to the violence he is also capable of committing in that guise is a tough line. If it feels like you’re ‘putting on an act’ I can’t believe the action. It’s tough- granted- but there were times I felt this was a hurdle too big to overcome in this production.

Loren Elstein’s design is quite good. I liked the use of the scrim and division of stage but I couldn’t quite go with the abusive parents in swimming costumes for the ‘Jesus story’.

Amongst that, there was plenty to enjoy too. Oliver Wenn was more than adequate as Katurian. When Wenn got to deliver Katurian’s stories, that was when we most took notice. He delivered them with real ownership and clarity. But it was Peter McAllum as Tupolski who was the definite standout of the show. His ability to show the control of Tupolski and tilt events always to his advantage was masterfully crafted.

This play was enjoyable but not outstanding. If you’ve never seen McDonagh’s work before then do pop along and immerse yourself in a great text. It’s still a cheap night out watching some pretty decent theatre.


Thank you to all the people who pointed out my lack of research on the original play in that it is very specifically not written for an Irish voice and thus accent is irrelevant. Consider myself suitably chastised for the oversight on my part. Bad, bad girl. I was trying to account for the problems with rhythm and took a stab at what it might have been from my flu-like state but read some of the reader comments below who most likely account for it much better than I did. And seriously, thank you for writing them. I am not so precious that I can't take criticism. I mean, wouldn't that be ironic? 

STC’S ‘LITTLE MERCY’ dissected by me

Ever wondered what a pantomime done in the style of gothic horror might look like? ‘Little Mercy’ is your answer. Written by Sisters Grimm (Ash Flanders, who also stars in the show and Declan Greene, also its director), ‘Little Mercy’ is their latest project in what they best describe as “gay DIY drag-theatre”. It’s a darkly comic piece that has clearly been written with the express purpose of having fun and exploiting expectations and they have succeeded on both levels.

Ash Flanders is terrific in this show. His role as Virginia is played with what I call drag-integrity. Consider this, he’s a man playing a woman and although we all know this, Flanders plays Virginia as a woman might be expected to behave in this 50’s gothic throwback genre. Yet, we are still let in on the joke and we even allow the convention to be flaunted in front of us and love the double dance that takes place. Confused? I might have just confused myself too. What I’m saying is that Flanders plays Virginia as such a likeable naïve privileged housewife and even though nothing on stage can be considered real, we believe her reactions are completely appropriate. She is the most real thing on stage and we love it, because ‘she’ is not real at all.

Flanders is supported by Luke Mullins as husband and later as malicious nanny (in drag) and once again, there is delicious delight in allowing Mullins to use one character to promote another and both of these characters exploit Virginia’s good-will to drag her further into the madness of the play’s sadistic quagmire. Mullins does a great job in fulfilling the play’s intent and creating obstacles for our protagonist. His nuance and physicality are lovely to watch.

Jill McKay as adopted daughter/demon was another great touch in throwing casting conventions on its head and I loved the clever use of stage crew (Roxzan Bowes), musician/composer (Steve Toulmin) and the use of space was another smart touch. Designer David Fleischer and lighting/ AV designer Verity Hampson took the Wharf 2 space, every square inch of it and revealed to us, piece by piece, all the ways in which space can help tell a story, even from the steps of the audience seating. The hidden script sprawled on walls, the illuminated scrim of curtains, what can be hung or hidden, transformed or transfixed, the design added enormously to the style of this show.

There are a few gaps in timing and a couple of times I found myself drifting off in the middle of this show but its spectacle and lead performance will keep you thoroughly entertained. And it’s good to know that men kissing each other on stage doesn’t raise an eyebrow anymore, although we still squeal if they kiss the old lady. We’re a funny bunch, yes?

If you have stopped going to the STC because you’ve been profoundly disappointed with what’s on offer- and I completely understand why you might have; please consult the almost entirety of posts on STC productions from 2011 and 2012 for further information- what I’ve seen this year has been a pleasant surprise. I think they’ve started to factor their audience back into the mix by offering a range of styles, writing, performing and staging and it might be worthwhile considering a return to their (granted, very expensive) theatre.

STC are trying to put fun and innovation back into the mix and ‘Little Mercy’ is a great example of this. It allows the audience to enter the world of the play and enjoy the joke of its illusions and knows what to reveal and when. I defy you not to find something fun about watching this show. 

Sunday, 10 March 2013

GENESIAN THEATRE’S ‘Richard III’ dissected by me

What’s the etiquette in saying there’s a Shakespeare play you don’t like? Is it an admission of philistine tendencies? Will I still be allowed to hang out in polite circles and discuss ‘the-at-re’? Thankfully public opinion and I parted ways some time ago so let’s just say it: I really don’t like Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’. 

‘Richard III’ is the Elizabethan equivalent of asking Tony Abbott’s speechwriters to write a play about Julia Gillard. Take a smattering of historical facts and twist them completely with about 90% fiction added to paint everyone as the hapless victims of a tyrant.

Now I don’t need a play to be true to enjoy it but with ‘Richard III’  Shakespeare had to paint Richard, Duke of Gloucester in such a way that dramatically the play works on stage about as much as Tony Abbott looks good in speedos.  Consider his tactics (Richard, not Abbott): he announces himself as the quintessential Machiavellian villain from the outset, goes about publicly killing everyone who stands between him and the crown and then convinces the widows of those he has slaughtered to marry him, even though they are repulsed by him and they know he is going to kill them too. He kills children, women, men, family- gosh- he kills everyone he can (note- he does not have the integrity to do it himself but sends others to do the dirty work) and it leaves us with one conclusion. The entire naïve clan of York are some of the stupidest people you can find on a stage and I don’t buy it. I don’t buy that if a man painted as ugly as Richard murdered my beloved husband that I would marry him. I don’t buy that if he killed my sons and my brother that I would give him my daughter's hand in marriage.

Oh yes, I know it’s Shakespeare but even his other villains had charm. Iago and Edmund were silver-tongued foxes and Macbeth was a brave warrior seduced by ambition. Richard is one ugly humpbacked mangled coward who is as sincere as an apology from Alan Jones. Come on. The play is a political vehicle that is a director’s nightmare to convince an audience that this is nothing but pure melodrama. There’s little tension because there’s no subtext, no stakes and the best you can do is find a few moments of dramatic irony between Richard and audience and play with a few technical elements of the stage and space.

So it was probably a bold choice of mine to go and see the Genesian’s ‘Richard III’ when I’ve already dismissed the play before I even see it. But I do recognise that not everyone thinks the same as me (I accept there are bound to be people who think Tony Abbott does look good in speedos) and that being the case, let me set about trying to dissect this show.

Director Gary Dooley has done some smart things in this space to try to breathe life into ‘Richard III’. I liked the bookends of the play- Richard’s (Roger Gimblett) snap control of all the players at the start, clearly the master of ceremonies or the puppeteer of action contrasted to Richmond (Patrick Magee) at the end. The ending was also a great moment in the play (no- I’m not being facetious when I say that). Dooley has cleverly shown Richmond as perhaps not the hero of the new age but as the next potential tyrant in his demands for ‘amen’ and wielding the gun at those surrounding him in his success. It was one of those times my cynicism waned and I took notice of what Dooley was saying about these characters. Well played.

The Genesian stage is very narrow but the entrances and exits were another smart choice by Dooley in coming through the audience and being able to manipulate the design of the stage to transform the needs of each scene by moving portable steps to create new shapes and functions. Dooley also used humour in showing how quickly leadership turned and changed through the removable banners of Houses.

I have much admiration for Dooley in what he has tried to achieve in his interpretation of ‘Richard III’- the lovely juxtaposition of the sorrowful singing to hail in each victor; the use of Timothy M. Carter’s lighting in heightening the bloodlust of Richard and the escalation of violence and especially during the scenes involving the ghostly apparitions of Richard’s victims and kudos to costume designers Susan Carveth and Fiona Barry for capturing character, status and the era of the mid-20th century setting of Dooley’s production. I enjoyed the choice of playing Buckingham (Dominic McDonald) as a foppish follower of whatever served him best and of overcoming the difficulty of bringing the young princes on stage through transforming them into faceless puppets, somewhat apt if we are view them as Richard does.

Special mentions to the performers too, who for the most part were very strong. Roger Gimblett was especially impressive as was Magee’s Richmond and John Willis-Richards’ camp and high energy portrayals if we are trying for humour in interpretation. But most of all, it was the women who stood out for me in attempting to bring some tension into their dilemmas, especially as their characters must transition quickly from despising Richard to giving into his whims and desires- Jenny Jacobs (Duchess of York), Elizabeth MacGregor (Queen Elizabeth) and most of all Hailey McQueen (Lady Anne).

I am confident that if you like this play, you’ll like this production. And if you don’t like ‘Richard III’, this won’t make you fall in love with it but it will give you plenty of moments you can appreciate.

And let’s never talk of Abbott in those speedos again.

Friday, 8 March 2013

BELVOIR’S ‘CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF’ dissected by me

Ah...Simon Stone. For some of you, that’s all I need to say. His name is synonymous with a certain style and interpretation that marks his work as distinctive as an Australian accent.

But perhaps this is your first foray into the ‘Stone Age’. It is for you I write this review. You, who is trying to make sense of the play which you most likely and reasonably enjoyed and yet you are still trying to process how it made you feel and think. I hope this helps.

Simon Stone loves a hysterical woman. He takes certain plays that allow his female characters to be portrayed without depth, to play for comedy, to see them chiefly as manipulative, cunning nags so we can dismiss their intentions and sympathise with the men. He takes those plays (or re-writes them to resemble this theme) and then conjures every theatrical trick he knows to interpret the material this way. Stone manages to find an early draft of the play that provides a very different, non-Broadway ending and it seems to have been given an update in contemporary language and thwack, ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ hits that sore spot once again.

Let me break it down for you. Act One. Revolving stage. Maggie (Jacqueline McKenzie) delivers her tirade to alcoholic husband Brick (Ewen Leslie). He drinks, she talks relentlessly. But while she talks and the stage turns and turns, with additions of clothes, shoes, make-up, jewellery each time the stage revolves- the message is clear. Don’t listen to what she’s saying. Watch her fussing, be distracted by her constant inability to commit to an outfit as she throws clothes and shoes on the floor and goes on and on, spinning, like a spider in a web. McKenzie’s vocals are so strained as she declaims her dialogue as directed that you stop listening anyway. Maggie’s endowed as shallow. Let’s all sympathise with husband Brick. I mean wouldn’t you be driven to drink if you were married to that? Wouldn’t you be ‘indifferent’ to her too? Wouldn’t you prefer the ‘company’ of men?

Enter other female characters like sister-in-law Mae (Rebecca Massey), nagging self-seeking opportunist with her badly behaved brood; Big Mama (Lynette Curran) painted as crass, loud, two-dimensional and melodramatic. All emotional transitions for the women are instant and it leads us to one conclusion. Women are fickle. Women have no depth of feeling because they can change without reason and therefore women cannot be trusted or believed, whatever they say to you. It’s all a tactic to get what they want.

Then we are given something different when Big Daddy (Marshall Napier) enters and he possesses the space with Brick. The revolving stage suddenly stops and the conversation, the real conversation is allowed to begin. No tricks. A pure naturalistic relationship is allowed to evolve. Suddenly we’re listening and watching and invested in these characters without distraction. We understand their backstory, their intentions and we hope for a glimmer of success and wish that they can become better men, even if we see how the truth destroys them.

There is no such hope for the women. Even when Big Mama says to Big Daddy, ‘In all these years you never believed that I loved you? And I did. I did so much. I did love you! I even loved your hate and your hardness’, we don’t believe her either. Stone does not want us to waste an ounce of empathy on the women in the play so in the last Act, as the children of Big Daddy reveal the truth of his condition to Big Mama, it’s played for comedy because she is seen as ridiculous.

The problem with this interpretation (which Stone is perfectly entitled to) is that the audience only allows itself sympathy for the men of the play, even if they are mean, emotionally void and closeted because they are given the time to let their emotions unfold. We see their stoicism in the face of this female hysteria. We see their fight for identity beyond the sacrifices and tolerance they have of the manipulative ball-busting women.

Mae is probably the one character you have the freedom to explore with this idea, especially with her horrible children (oh the awful women who strive to breed only do so for financial gain- isn’t that still a platform used in politics today?) Of course we allow Gooper (Alan Dukes) more dignity than his wife. At the end he is given the role of protector of Mae as he catches the bottle aimed for her head and he tries to wrestle control from his meanly-mouthed wife (poor hen-pecked husband, we think, to be trapped with such a bitch).He catches bottles/bullets for her and if he is invisible or emasculated, as Big Mama calls his brother Brick ‘my only son’, it is because Gooper has allowed Mae to take control of their relationship, just as he allowed Big Daddy to plot out his life journey.

As for the finale when Maggie has hidden the bottles from Brick and will only grant him access to the alcohol if he succumbs to her power, we see him lying limp, pillow over his face, retreating from Maggie’s complete physical and emotional blackmail as she takes advantage of her husband. If it played in reverse we might call it abuse or rape.

Stone makes sure we don’t miss the point- women are impossible to love. The sexual frustration of Maggie we can laugh at, the sexual confusion of Brick is played for drama and the results of sex between a man and woman (those awful children) we absolutely despise.

When women fail, it’s comic. When men fail, it’s tragic. It’s Stone Age in a nutshell.

It’s ironic that Stone practices the art of theatre clearly in line with 21st Century techniques but with a 19th Century system of beliefs. I really enjoy his staging and believe it or not, I enjoyed this play. The assault on the senses of the discordant epic requiems designed by Stefan Gregory contrasted to the piano refrains of children singing beautifully captured the ‘staging’ of innocence to the inner workings of a frustrated mind out of place with its environment and expectations.

The streamers as a set design concept (Robert Cousins) were another great touch used as a literal symbol of Big Daddy’s birthday but also used to create a number of entrances and exits and at the end we see how good times are a thing of the past. The detritus of the stage tells us all we need to know about the Pollitt family and their destiny.

I suppose you want me to mention the accents? I don’t really mind them. I think the rhythm of the language was sometimes inherent in the way it’s written. I did notice a Southern US lilt every now and again but it wasn’t one of the things that alienated me from this play or its references. I also thought the acting was terrific- although I feel like Stone makes it much more difficult for his women in the cast to sit with the material as they have to punch it for the instant comedy much more than the men.

I do think Stone knows how to stage a play. I like how he manipulates the stage to play with meaning and semiotics, if you like. What I don’t like is the constant repetition of his portrayal of women on stage. I think Simon Stone has an issue with women. There. I’ve said it.

Perhaps it’s apt I’m posting this review on International Women’s Day. Perhaps I’m just another hysterical woman ranting and raving about things because I have no emotional depth and I am a self-serving nag with an Australian accent. Whatever you believe, you’re going to have an opinion on ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ and I look forward to hearing it.


Saturday, 2 March 2013

DOUBLE DISSECTION: Belvoir's 'This Heaven' & Griffin's 'Dreams in White'

Griffin’s ‘Dreams in White’ and Belvoir’s ‘This Heaven’ are both tales of murder and intrigue, although completely different contexts. Whilst both ‘This Heaven’ and ‘Dreams in White’ deal with the guilt of the perpetrators and the carnage left behind, each play asks us to examine the nature of guilt, silence, deception and loss in completely different ways. Both plays also feel like there's something missing in order to fully make me engage in their plight: context.
Context is today's lesson- the importance of making sure your audience understand the nature of the narrative, character and shifts in action, time and place. Although both of these plays have many things to commend them, there is an issue with context.
‘This Heaven’, currently playing at Belvoir in their downstairs theatre is written by Nakkiah Lui and directed by Lee Lewis. Its focus is the fallout after the death in custody of an Aboriginal man, father and husband to a family who are devastated by not only his death but by the failure of the system to find the truth or punish those responsible.
The play dabbles with some powerful moments, from its opening of a chorus of sounds and frustrations from its characters and most notably for the silence from the one character who turns out to be the policeman who is holding onto the truth but cannot reveal it.
Centre stage in this tiny space is an old swing set, designed by Sophie Fletcher and used by the characters to rally, reminisce and rant for all the things that have been denied them, that have given them hope and that ultimately have broken them. As blind son Ducky (Travis Cardona) scales its scaffolding and antagonises the ‘invisible’ enemy, we note how hard every action must be for this family and how often they have had to stumble in the dark to try and find answers from those who hide in the shadows.
This play has a whole lot of heart and the acting is filled with people giving it their all. I can also tell you, from an audience point of view in the context of how intimate and arresting the downstairs theatre can be, when characters are banging that metal frame with a steel bar in the dark, the action is certainly heightened in a ‘theatre-of-cruelty-assault-on-the-senses’ kind of way and there’s a fear that you’re going to be knocked out. It was a powerful moment to feel the intensity of the characters’ plight, particularly as it is building to the climax.
But to me the play stumbled in the dark in the first 30 minutes, just lacking enough clarity to make me think that although these were high stakes for the characters, I was missing some piece of vital information that I needed to feel that too. Of course, I understood the premise, the death in custody, the idea that this family were aggrieved at an injustice of the case, now past its day in court and closed for all but them. I had the literal story but none of the meat that would let me digest it as an audience member on the intricacies of the situation. It’s like seeing the emotion but not what drives it.
It didn’t take away the enjoyment of the show but it did take away the power. For me, that power-play came when Joshua Anderson entered as the policeman, gearing up for the riot and letting the audience in on what precipitated the whole event. He was our backstory and his delivery of it, with regret and empathy, loyalty and fear, gave us the meat we needed to thoroughly engage in the story. Anderson was the highlight of the show for me (in what was a very strong cast I may add) and it made me think, ‘in all this emotion and anger, is the white man’s voice most resonant with me because it represents who I am or is it the choice of the writer, whether that be consciously of sub-consciously to provide the missing link?’
Anderson certainly brought it home and although the rest of the cast should also be commended for the energy and commitment of their own performances and I think Nakkiah Lui has written a great first play. However, the first half needs another draft or working over to hone the material and clarify the characters’ heightened emotions so context is not lost in the tirade. Thirty minutes of sustained anger will set up an impossible struggle to keep your audience invested in the stakes of the narrative advancement and for your director to employ a range of techniques for her cast to use. I will say that Lee Lewis has done a very good job in helping her cast and audience try to connect with this play using the material Lui has supplied.
Griffins’ ‘Dreams in White’, written by Duncan Graham and directed by Tanya Goldberg has a similar issue in regards to context. I’ve always said if I have to do research before the show to clarify the story, there’s probably a flaw in the performance. To me that once again sat in the writing (or perhaps the directing) and was most evident in the multiple playing of characters by the actors that took me a little while to play catch up when there was such a little difference in how they were presented. Normally I take to this like a duck to water, but ‘Dreams in White’ blurred this distinction. For instance, it was hard to tell when Steve Rodgers played any character apart from hapless Gary. They all felt the same. Mandy McElhinney probably made the best fist of transformational acting choices. I don’t need stock costume changes but if I’m thrown into a new scene and set of characters and I have no guide to assist me in taking that journey, I will struggle to understand the coherence of narrative.
But that would be my main criticism of what is a fairly good show. The acting was as solid as you’d expect from veterans like Lucy Bell (Anna Devine) and Andrew McFarlane (Michael Devine), who play husband and wife and where Michael’s double life, that leads to his demise, is revealed throughout the discoveries of the play. There are a couple of moments we feel truly uncomfortable in the play, like when Devine is asking Julia (Bell) about whether she is ‘thinking about other people’ as we sense Devine’s grooming techniques or when daughter Amy (Sara West) is revealing her romance and abuse at the hands of her boyfriend to her father.  At other times, I felt I wasn’t particularly invested in the outcomes for the characters and yet still engaged in the show. I think that’s the danger of playing ‘catch-up’, you stop caring after a point if you are still working out whether this is a time shift or a brand new context.
West and McElhinney I thought were also great and when Rodgers was playing Gary, he really hit the mark too. Maybe his issue was costume because it so clearly defined him as Gary, it was very hard to deliver anything else.
I will say designer’s Tessa Negroponte’s set was terrific. The sliding doors and structure of the bespoke home represented the nature of the surface as neat and uncluttered and yet behind the scenes the carnage takes place. I’m so often impressed with how both Griffin and downstairs Belvoir design for these spaces in such a sophisticated and potent way.
I also feel Goldberg's directorial pacing of this play in the smooth flow of action was good and only hindered by character confusion.
There was something to be got out of both of these plays but I wished for more in each case. To have such a strong ensemble working on each performance and yet to feel wavering engagement suggests there is still some way to go in delivering the full life of each play to the audience.
I think you’ll like the plays and there will be moments you will thoroughly enjoy but in both cases, you’ll feel there’s something missing. I’m making the call and saying the it's word of the day- context.