Saturday, 15 February 1997

Is That You Nancy? Feb 15, 1997

 Is That You Nancy? by Sandra Shotlander
 Courthouse until March 29, 1997
Reviewed by Kate Herbert around Feb 15, 1997

An inordinate amount of Melbourne theatre at present is written by, about and for the Gay and Lesbian community and part of the trend is the play, Is That You Nancy? by Sandra Shotlander. The play was commissioned in Sydney for the 1991 Mardi Gras and performed at Belvoir Street Theatre.

This is less a play than a series of comic character sketches and vignettes loosely linked by the theme of lesbian relationships and women's phone calls. Scenes, perky 30's love songs and disconnected pairs of characters are pegged together on a theatrical washing line by repeated stream-of-consciousness raves by the inimitable Miss Gertrude Stein.

From the vantage point of her 1920's Paris salon and her successful relationship with Alice B. Toklas, Stein serves as long-distance commentator and, finally, adviser to the lonely hearts of the 90's. She chats to women "out of power": Nancy Reagan and Benazir Butto to name some.

The piece, directed by Wayne Pearn, may not be slick but it is entertaining and often funny. Performers Kath Gordon and Paula McDonald create matched sets of characters. The New York, New Age psycho-babblers Shelley and Barbie, have an exclusively answer-phone relationship because they are too busy doing relationship workshops.

Lovesick Patsy waits for her ex to call, the promiscuous Sally is dumped by her up-market lover and sad-sack, down-market Susie Cambio, smokes hard, drinks even harder and continues to try on different identities, including celibacy.

Shotlander's dialogue is often quick and peppered with gags and clever social observations. A distracted Patsy quips, "I could become a socialist feminist and give up emotion altogether". However, some over-written one-sided phone dialogue and Stein's word associative babble become annoying.

In the end it is unclear what is the intention of this piece but it is a hoot.

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