Saturday, 8 September 2012

Happy Ending, MTC Sept 7, 2012 **

Happy Ending by Melissa Reeves, Melbourne Theatre Company
Lawler Studio, MTC, Sep 5 to 22, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sept 7, 2012

Published online Herald Sun Tuesday Sept 11 and in print later this week.

 Fanny Hanusin & Nell Feeney in Happy Ending
WHEN THE PROGRAM CREDITS a Mandarin language coach and massage tutor, it’s not a stretch to guess that Melissa Reeves’ play, Happy Ending, features Chinese masseurs.

Susie Dee directs Reeves’ tissue-thin, situational comedy with light-handed humour and a sense of the absurdity of the plot and characters.

Louise (Nell Feeney) is 40ish and married with a toddler but is tormented by her ridiculous sexual obsession with a young, Chinese masseur, Lu (Gareth Yuen), who works in a massage shop in the soulless Northland shopping mall.

This premise might make a much shorter play or situational sketch, but with its insubstantial plot, two-dimensional characters, repetitive dialogue and limited dramatic development, it lacks the substance for a 90-minute play.

There are certainly some big laughs and mighty groans at the expense of the characters whose dialogue is peppered with jibes at the modern woman, politically incorrect, racist jokes (both Western and Chinese), and
some utterly tasteless humour about Louise’s fantasies about animals. Yes, really!

While Feeney works hard as yappy, stressed Louise, her character is so driven by her idiotic goal to bed the young masseur and she looks so demented, that we cannot sympathise with her predicament.

Fanny Hanusin is a marvellous, comic caricature as Jie, the smug, rude massage shop owner, Yuen is elegant and diffident as the relentlessly pursued Lu, while Keith Brockett, Roz Hammond and Christopher Connelly play multiple comic roles.

There is nothing erotic about this potential affair or Louise’s fantasies, so don’t expect a theatrical version of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Andrew Bailey’s stylish design captures the Asian style with its huge, modular and translucent paper screens.

Happy Ending is ultimately an unsatisfying play that relies heavily on cheap gags about unrequited sex/love at the expense of story and character, repeating itself until it reaches its oddly contrived ending.

 ... continued after publication online Herald Sun Monday Sept 10.

By Kate Herbert 

Director Susie Dee
Set and Costume Designer Andrew Bailey
Lighting Designer Katie Sfetkidis
Composer Ian Moorhead
 Keith Brockett (Wen/Jun), Nell Feeney (Louise), Roz Hammond
(Liliana), Fanny Hanusin (Jie), Jim Russell (Alec/Jeweller), Gareth Yuen (Lu)

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