Round and round it goes, and where it stops, nobody knows.
The merry-go-round of love is turning swiftly at the Heath Ledger Theatre, as Black Swan launches its current production, Day One, A Hotel, Evening, by celebrated Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith. Directed by Peter Houghton and featuring Roz Hammond as Stella, this roundabout story of cheating lovers just might leave you dizzy if you don’t pay close attention.
I was especially looking forward to seeing this show for the set alone, and I wasn’t disappointed. Designer Tracy Grant Lord has designed a revolving set, which is one of my favorite theatrical conventions; I find it thrilling to watch an entire set full of furniture, props and people rotating around to reveal a whole new set. I’m always amazed when the actors walk confidently on a moving stage without grabbing the walls, when not a single prop teeters in its spot, when the whole thing comes to a stop in just the right spot. Lord’s set is a sight to behold; dark grey painted brick walls, exposed bracing in between rooms, mod furniture, and cool interchangeable sconces give it a slightly retro urban feel. This retro feel is echoed in Lord’s costuming as well, which stays in the same grey palette for a lovely unified look.
[pull_left]he standout performance of the evening was given by Humphrey Bower as Sam; his energy is strong and bountiful and he drove every scene he was in[/pull_left]
There is a distinct film noir feel to this production, which can be found in the absolutely stunning lighting by Matthew Marshall. The show opened with a special from stage right that shone on Jacob Allen (Ray) in a trench coat, creating a long silhouette as if he were standing in a doorway; cool nighttime blues shone through windows, and gobos created a large dappled look on the bricks and on the floor. The lights, paired with the smoky, cool jazz by composer and musical director Ash Gibson Greig, drove the noir mood home. Throughout the show there were sharp, sudden light and sound cues that punctuated each scene for comedic effect, and these had to work in time with the actors’ movements and dialogue. This was a precisely timed effort from the entire team and they managed to make nearly every one hit, with only a split-second miss on one or two cues.
This show is technically outstanding – taut and crisp – and the scene work from the actors is not far behind. Some scenes lagged a little when some of Murray-Smith’s sharp, witty dialogue either meandered into more serious, dramatic territory, or went off on a wordy tangent. Roz Hammond’s Stella was an amusing caricature of a neurotic wife, mother and wannabe artist and her slightly exaggerated comic style was not too dissimilar to something you might see from the great Carol Burnett. The standout performance of the evening was given by Humphrey Bower as Sam; his energy is strong and bountiful and he drove every scene he was in. He absolutely steals the show in one scene in particular where he describes with great detail and enthusiasm the ins and outs of love-making with one of his partners.
Day One, A Hotel, Evening is a fun bedroom romp, and turns the tables on the heavy drama of Black Swan’s last production.