Sunday, 10 November 2013


Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli
From: November 6
Directed by Sandra Bates
Reviewed by Ben Oxley

CHLOE BAYLISS, (genuine triple threat, seen as Nell in Reef Doctors, fiesty, biochemical view of relationship as Avery) 
DIANE CRAIG, (Australian acting royalty, perfect study of Alice) 
GLENN HAZELDINE (with a wealth of stage, TV and film credits, is a highly plausible and disturbed Don)The play Rhinestone Rex and Miss Monica, which featured and reunites him and GEORGIE PARKER, ( a beautiful and transparent Catherine), famous for above all being a champion of Ensemble Theatre. Her performance is the hub of the play. If it were not for Catherine, all the others would continue on disconnected. As we discover, 
ANNE TENNEY, so right for the depressive Gwen and the completion of the relationship triangle, has a hand in changing their outcomes.
Media star academic Catherine Croll, who has made her reputation as the "pretty girl who talks porn", returns home to care for her mother Alice. Her mother has had a heart attack, and it awakes questions in Catherine as to what her priorities should be. In the same New England hometown where her mother lives, her former grad school boyfriend, local college disciplinary dean Don Harper lives in his uneasy marriage to her former grad school roommate Gwen. Caroline is by turns deep and shallow, academic and alone. Don has the unfulfilling resume of beer, pot and porn. As the backstory unravels he is pressed into defining what he wants.

It is the cross-section of the views of three generations that fuel this piece. Avery has cutting insight into Catherine's problems: "It went wrong, you move on." She challenges the views of the other women, while asserting her "hooked-up, permanent" relationship is solid. She learns and applies the tips that Catherine, Gwen and Alice pass on.

Gwen is a barometer for where the play is headed. Owning her habitual drinking by joining AA, and making note of it at every turn, she sets about judging others, particularly Catherine. Her dissatisfaction of her life moves from Don to her old rival for his affections.

Don, the man in the middle, is an under-achiever who moves between a below par standard for Gwen to a dizzying one that Catherine unconsciously sets. He can no longer reside at the low end of the gene pool after his encounter with Catherine after years apart.

Gwen is the soul here, with loving concern for Catherine, and little time for Gwen's posturing as the fulfilled mother over the lonely academic. Her timing with Refreshments are signature, accommodating Gwen non-alcoholic cocktails, contrasting the sessional excess between Catherine and Don.

If Theatre sports had additional categories, would 'Ensemble Theatre' style be included? It's a tribute to stalwart director Sandra Bates, who focuses us on each character in turn. There is intimacy and pace, almost at TV tempo. Designer GRAHAM MACLEAN kept clean lines for the story to move forward, and Trudy Dalgleish made a fluid assigment of the lighting changes. Congratulations!

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