Friday, 23 March 2007

elmo, La Mama, March 23, 2007

elmo  by Ben Cittadini 
La Mama, March 23 to April 1, 2007
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 23, 2007
Ben Cittadini’s play, elmo,  focuses on the burgeoning but dysfunctional relationship between Linda (Sarah Derum) and Serge (Craig Darryl Peade). They meet daily in a park, at first accidentally then by design or choice.
Linda is unhappily married to Enzo, who Serge insists on calling Elmo. She is a dissatisfied 32-year old who works in the city. Serge is evidently workless but engages in rather ineffectual exercise in the park and carried a huge blue sports bag.
Cittadini, directing his own play, attempts to break theatrical conventions of pace and rhythm by interpolating interminable pauses between lines of dialogue and scenes. The effect has distant echoes of Pinter but lacks any sense of menace. Initially, it works to provide a sense of real time passing, of the tedium of their lives and their rusty and awkward communication. Eventually, it is simply annoying. The play runs 70 minutes but should be 40.
Some intrigue unfolds in the relationship as Linda reveals snippets of her unhappy marriage to Enzo. Slowly we hear that he wants children but she does not want to bear them; he is tight with his money and she has a gambling problem; she likes Asian food and he does not.
Serge, in contrast, is a layabout who lives nearby in a messy, dirty house. He slowly reveals that not only has he been following Linda but he has also been stalking her husband, phoning their house posing as a market researcher.
These two marginalised people find some solace in the anonymity of their regular meetings.
At times, elmo has charm and interest; there are a few gentle laughs, some simple observations of character and interaction and a few tests of an audience’s tolerance. However, its relentlessly slow rhythm undermines much of its charm.
The actors are often inaudible and, in a small space, this is inexcusable. Cittadini purposefully avoids any theatricality of style but we do need, at least, to hear them. Derum has limited range as Linda playing one note throughout. Peade’s perpetual motion is annoyingly repetitive and makes Serge look like a silly child.
 Theatre that attempts to bore an audience appeals to a very small group.
By Kate Herbert

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