Wednesday, 18 November 1998

Legacy & Petroleum, Nov 18, 1998

 by Raimondo Cortese, by Ranters Theatre
At La Mama until November 29, 1998
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

A short play is like an entree: a good one can be just as satisfying as the main course. Raimondo Cortese's half-hour pieces, Legacy and Petroleum, are both tasty, if insubstantial, morsels.

The two plays, directed by Adriano Cortese are part of Ranters Theatre and Cortese's series of 12 two-handers entitled Roulette and both deal with the meeting of two strangers.

Legacy snatches a glimpse of a lunchtime meeting between Theo, (Tony Nikolakopoulos) a warm and earthy building worker, and Sonia, (Beth Buchanan) a nervy young woman who is selling oddments on the street corner. Sonia is confused, earnest and pedantic. She epitomises the ill informed, crusading segment of our youth.

Theo relaxes, scoffing his salad and a couple of joints before the work siren blares. The apparent differences between these two are eliminated as they share a bench, a few smokes and some pearls of wisdom about work, love, life and intoxicants. There is little content. The focus is on the drawing together of strangers, the finding of common ground despite cultural, age and class differences.

Nikolakopoulos is hilarious and credible as Theo, while Buchanan is more effective later in the piece after a shaky beginning.

Petroleum sees two men, Steve (Robert Morgan) and Gordon (Torquil Neilson) thrown together in a very outer-suburban service station on a Sunday after Steve's untimely collision with a wallaby. As they await the return of young Gordon's uncle the mechanic, it becomes clear that the two have nothing in common apart from their humanity.

The emotional development of the relationship depends totally on conflict. This is a play constructed on the dynamics of disagreement. Steve is edgy and uncomfortable. He chews handfuls of Tic Tacs and washes them down with gulps of Diet Coke. Gordon, in contrast, is a quiet, serene country boy who is philosophical about the world, believes in marriage, loyalty and family in a way only the uncontaminated are able.

Both actors are compelling. Morgan has an underlying dangerous tone which threatens to erupt at any moment. All is explained when he reveals the events of the previous evening. Neilson finds a strength in the polite shyness of Gordon which makes him the adult in the relationship.

The two plays may not deal with the larger issues, but the dialogue is peppy and natural, characters are familiar and the performances are entertaining.

By Kate Herbert

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