American playwright Lisa D’Amour has described her play as being about ‘the opening up of the private self to the public self’.
This is a good ‘way in’ to appreciating this difficult, dense work if you decide to see DETROIT. The play’s biggest moments are when the characters unmask themselves from their public persona and reveal what is truly going on for them.
Two couples, Ben and Mary, and Sharon and Kenny, are living the American dream, setting up themselves in the new suburbia in downtown Detroit. The time period- circa the the nineteen sixties- signposted with the prevalence of Motown music in the soundscape. Continue reading Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit @ Eternity Playhouse→
This little gem is a very original, rather absurd comedy, but with darker undertones of tragic lost love and a life spent ‘living in the past’.
The two actors Lisa Chappell as Esther, who also wrote the piece, and Sarah Hytner as Mavis, complement each other beautifully as two elderly characters trapped day and night in a futuristic call centre for Bad Day Insurance…waiting for ‘something’.
The play starts with a series of short calls by clients. The scenarios are extremely funny, and the audience can well relate to many of the injustices in life, plus there is some cruel advice given out as to how to avoid similar claims in future. Unlike most insurance companies the women go out of their way to ensure the client gets a payout for the unfortunate incidents, of their lives even if every claim receives the same payout. As they say to each client, “thank you for calling Bad Day Insurance where it pays to have a bad day.”
When an actor and a singer come together to create a work in the cabaret space, it is a sure sign that they are on a mission to break theatrical rules in order to create something unique and fresh. ON/OFF certainly gives us something new and innovative, but more than that, this is a work that entertains, fascinates, and connects on many levels. It takes its audience on an emotional roller coaster ride, well aware that it is the contrast of funny and sad that makes each reaction more powerful. We laugh and cry, and laugh again. With its unusual structure and excellent performances, the show forces us to let down our guard, and takes control of all our sentiments.
Scott Witt’s direction is superb. He constantly plays with juxtapositions, making use of the wildly different characteristics of the two actors, and the spacial concepts of on stage and off stage, and crafts a work that is as emotionally volatile as it is confident in its structure and plot. The journey is incredibly bumpy, but the destination is crystal clear. The experience of witnessing one actor on stage, and the other off, while listening to a familiar cabaret standard, is a pleasure that has to be seen to be believed.
Marissa Dikkenberg’s depiction of her character’s disintegration is marvelous. Sara is a bland “Stepford housewife” type, who goes through a thorough and clamorous break down, progressing from a chirpy and sober state of delusion into a complete drunken mess. Dikkenberg has a strong singing voice, but uses her skills carefully to maintain the inevitability of her character. Lisa Chappell’s presence in the tiny Bordello Theatre is colossal, and her acting is faultless. Her drama and comedy are both high octane, but the gory authenticity she puts into her work makes every moment convincing. Chappell’s performance is determined to hit her audience like a ton of bricks. It is unabashed, unapologetic theatricality at its most flamboyant and audacious, and completely delicious.
This is alternative art, but formulated with the intention to communicate to wide audiences. It is a story about life’s disappointments, human resilience, and the value of friendship. These themes are universal, and also passionate. The words to one of the show’s songs sum things up best, “you’ve got to laugh a little, cry a little… and when the world is through with us, we’ve got each other’s arms.” Many things happen in On/Off, but what endures is The Glory Of Love.
Lisa Chappell’s show ON/OFF is running at the Bordello Theatre, Kings Cross until December 15.
Suzy Wrong’s review was originally published on her website covering the Sydney theatre scene, www.suzygoessee.com
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