Monday, 15 December 2003

Love! Valour! Compassion! Dec 14, 2003

 Love! Valour! Compassion!
by Terrence McNally
Gasworks, Albert Park, from Dec 14, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Terrence McNally is a supremely funny and intelligent playwright. His play, Love! Valour! Compassion! is no exception.

Chris Baldock's production for the Midsumma Festival is a slick and very successful version of this often hilarious, sometimes poignant play about seven gay men.

The group of old pals and sometime enemies visit Gregory's (Dion Mills) upstate New York house for three long weekends in summer. We revisit them for Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labour Day weekends.

One single, clumsy act of sexual betrayal changes the dynamic of the summer.

 Gregory's young blind partner Bobby, (Brett Whittingham) has a fumbling liaison by the Frigidaire with surly, English John's (Chris White) sexy boyfriend, Ramon (Juan Mondinger)

This thoughtless act has the repercussions of a stone in a pond.

The acting from virtually all the ensemble is believable, detailed and compelling.

The majority of McNally's howlingly funny lines are saved for Buzz, (Jacob Boehme) the most effeminate of the crew.

Boehme plays this shrieking, costume designing Queen with relish. His commitment to the character, total physical transformation and impeccable comic timing are a delight.

As the role model long term professional gay couple, Lee Threadgold and Richard Foster are entirely credible and admirable.

 The beauty of the play is that it can make these few weekends so resonant. McNally's consummate craft creates a complex web of scenes.

The narration changes hands, characters comment on the action, the story moves back and forward in time while we catch up with the machinations of these friends.

They are warm, vengeful, loving, sweet, tragic and achingly funny in the space of three hours.

Baldock's direction is sleek and seamless. His own set design of a series of steps and landings, provides an uncommonly effective location for the many inter-cut scenes.

This movement across the space is complemented by an atmospheric lighting design by Stelios Karagiannis.

McNally won four Tony awards for this play, Masterclass, Ragtime, the controversial Corpus Christi and Kiss of the Spider Woman. His credits go on and on.

This witty exposition of life as a gay man in the 1990's is a must see.

By Kate Herbert

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