The only thing that over shadows Joanna Murray-Smith’s complex plot and labyrinth structure is her delicious and quotable wit. Back in a small theatre and with Red Stitch’s boutique creators, the world premiere of Day One. A Hotel, Evening delivers a world so familiar that it could hurt to watch, if it weren’t so damn funny.
There are two 40-something couples (Kate Cole, Dion Mills, Sarah Sutherland and John Adam) who are attempting to “build a postcode” and develop an outer-city suburb that they would never visit. They’re wealthy enough to still need to be good looking, bored enough to drift from any middle class notions of fidelity and hurt enough to contemplate revenge. Throw in a promiscuous and pretty 22-year-old actor (Anna Sampson) and her philosophising hit-man husband, and there’s a made-in-Melbourne farce that’s guaranteed to please – unless it’s meant to be a dark comedy.
In farce, we can laugh ’til we cry at hurting characters because we don’t love them enough to care (like Basil Fawlty or anyone in The Importance of Being Earnest), but in dark comedy, we see their broken souls and the laughter comes at the cost of feeling their pain (like David Brent or the likes of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Wolf ). All are as witty as a wit in a wit competition with a superior wit, but the freedom of farce allows the pain and confusion to create bigger and heartier laughs without the cost of empathy.
Murray-Smith’s clever jokes, satire and mirror recognition bring easy laughs, made easier by the gorgeous performances, but the tone skates and slips without control. Sutherland’s aggressive aggressive (it’s easier than passive aggressive) Stella delights in her over-the-topness, then Hayward’s Ray makes us want a happy ending, and for all the brilliant banter between Mills and Adam (can “fuck plagiarist” please enter our vernacular), I have no idea what they were hoping we would feel or if we were meant to feel anything other than admiration.
I’ll remember “Love is not a guinea pig”, but I’ve already forgotten the names of the characters and, I suspect that I’ll quickly forget the ending because I didn’t know if I was meant to fall off my chair in crying shock about the cost of love, or laughingly wet myself at its inevitability.
More of Anne-Marie’s writing is at sometimesmelbourne.blogspot.com