Australian playwright Elizabeth Coleman’s 1993 play IT’S MY PARTY invites the audience into the world of the Patterson family at a major turning point in their lives. This play is yet another playwright’s portrayal of a dysfunctional family, though not quite on the same scale as the Addams family!
Family patriarch Ron Patterson (Henri Szeps) has brought his family together for an urgent meeting (this is the party that the play’s title refers to). Ron announces that in 111 minutes precisely he will be dead. He is aware that he has been an ineffectual father to his grown-up children, his two daughters Karen (Freya Pragt) and Debbie (Sharon Davis) and his son, Michael (Trent Baker). He is also regretful that he has been a difficult, selfish husband to his wife, Dawn (Robyn Arthur). In the little time that he has remaining, he wants to make amends, make peace with his loved ones.
Everything goes pear shaped for Ron as we hear the clock mercilessly tick down to Ron’s premature demise. It turns out to be a revelatory journey though unlike Eugene O’Neill’s gut wrenching masterpiece about the Tyrone family, Coleman’s take on family dysfunction is mainly played for laughs with some added moments of pathos.
Director Denis Moore guides the production well. Henri Szeps, as always, gives an assured comic performance in the lead role. Robyn Arthur plays his less than happy wife, Dawn. Much humour is made out of the rivalry between Ron’s daughters who have very contrasting personalities. In two fine performances, Sharon Davis plays the willful, independent Debbie with Freya Pragt playing the much conservative, dutiful Karen.
Trent Baker gives an affecting performance as their sweet natured brother Michael who has finally come to terms with his alternate sexuality and has the agonising task of coming out to his father at the worst possible time.
Coleman’s play owes more than a nod to the rich theatre of the absurd playwriting genre. The audience was in stitches in the play’s second half when Ted Wilkins from the funeral company (well played by Matt Furlani) arrives at the family home, expecting to take away Ron only to find him still walking around. Well…Ted had forgotten to turn back his clock for daylight savings time!
Shaun Gurton’s set, featuring a wallpaper photo of a suburban bungalow running across the set’s walls, along with a long dining room table and chairs, worked well.
Recommended, Christine Harris and HIT Productions production of IT’S MY PARTY opened at the Glen Street theatre, Belrose on Thursday 11th April and plays until Sunday April 21, 2013.
(c) David Kary
15th April, 2013
Tags: Sydney Stage Reviews- IT’S MY PARTY, Elizabeth Coleman, Christine Harris and HIT Productions, Henri Szeps, Robyn Arthur, Trent Baker, Sharon Davis, Freya Pragt, Matt Furlani, Denis Moore, Shaun Gurton, Sydney Arts Guide, David Kary