Thursday, 28 February 2008

Sanctuary, Feb 27, 2008

by Amedeo Astorino
 La Mama, Feb 27 to March 9, 2008

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Terminus and The Resort, two short plays by Amedeo Astorino directed by Bruce Langdon, deal with mental illness and marginalised persons seeking solace or escape from the big, bad world.

Astorino incorporates well-observed characters and edgy dialogue. The longer play, The Resort, has the more menacing scenario and stronger performances. Valerie (Jae Dee Scott), a returning resident at the ironically titled “resort”, a psychiatric clinic, re-encounters Cliff (Glen Hancox), a vulnerable patient, and Kyle (Doru Surcel), a smarmy, intimidating nurse.

The play depicts the prolonged hours between treatments when psychiatric patients fend for themselves, dealing their own demons.

Scott is capable and credible as the wry Valerie, playing her with cool control that masks her inner turmoil and Hancox captures the naive confusion of the closeted homosexual Cliff. Surcel sets the tone with his threatening portrayal of religious fanatic Kyle who wears a constant, almost imperceptible sneer.

Kyle is a manipulating meddler who clearly suffers an undiagnosed mental illness – perhaps religious mania. He reveals that he read Valerie’s file and uses her violent secrets as emotional and sexual blackmail. Knowing that Cliff’s mother is domineering and conservative, he informs her of her son’s homosexuality and causes Cliff to attempt suicide.

Terminus is a two-hander about Jack (Ian Rooney), an unstable older man inhabiting a decrepit room near a train line. He left his comfortable life and wife and now struggles to maintain his sanity while her drinks himself into an early grave. His only company is a bottle (or two) of Johnny Walker and a young prostitute (Karla Silvey) who follows him home after he comes to her rescue on a train.

The dialogue is well written and the drama could be compelling, but sluggish cueing slows the pace and interrupts the rhythm of Astorino’s play. Rooney captures the nervy despair of Jack but needs to be on voice rather than using his breathy whisper and Silvey has a bright youthfulness that could to be dirtied up for the hooker.

By Kate Herbert

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