Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Aliens, Red Stitch, Sep 7, 2011

Review: The Aliens, Red Stitch Actors Theatre *** 1/2
  • Kate Herbert
  • From: Herald Sun
  • September 07, 2011 11:33AM

THE ALIENS, Red Stitch Actors Theatre, until September 24

IN The Aliens, Annie Baker focuses a gentle, uncritical gaze on two social dropouts who spend their dislocated days sitting beside rubbish bins behind a cafe.

The pair seem unlikely comrades, but their loyalty and friendship become clear as we eavesdrop on their daily raves. Are they simply outcast losers or are they geniuses who went off the tracks?

Jasper, played by Brett Cousins with aching despair and brutal brusqueness tempered by paternal care, obsesses resentfully about his ex-girlfriend, his deprived childhood and the novel he is writing.

Brett Ludeman is credible and compelling as the emotionally volatile, mentally fragile KJ, a college dropout with a surprising academic past and an addiction to hallucinogenic mushrooms.

These disconnected, disenfranchised fringe dwellers meet shy, 17-year old Evan, a new cafe employee, played with sensitivity and brittle anxiety by David Harrison.

Evan, a nervous outsider himself, is slowly folded into Jasper and KJ's world where he finds kinship and two peculiar mentors.

Baker's play, deftly directed by Nadia Tass, echoes the pace and style of Chekhov's scenes from ordinary life, but adds Pinter's menace and Beckett's existential clowns. Although it does not equal the greatness of these writers, it has simplicity and passion. 

The production slows about halfway through and seems to have a couple of false endings, but it is a funny and moving observation of friendship and loss.

Star rating: *** 1/2

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