Friday, 29 November 2002

Love and Understanding, Red Stitch, Nov 29, 2002

What: Love and Understandingby Joe Penhall Red Stitch Actors Theatre

Where: 80 Inkerman St. St. Kilda

When: Wednesday to Saturday  8pm Sunday 6.30pm

Until: December 20, 2002

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Three's a crowd - particularly when the third party is selfish, manipulative and living in your house uninvited.

Joe Penhall's play, Love and Understanding, examines the exhausted relationship of a young, professional couple, Neal (Vincent Miller) and Rachel (Verity Charlton). Neal's childhood friend, Ritchie, ( David Whiteley) lands on their doorstep when the two young doctors are frantically busy.

Ritchie is a compulsive liar and  a journalist - or he may be  lying about the newspaper career as well as everything else.He is fast, seductive, fun and completely untrustworthy. Ritchie is the worst kind of drug consuming, manipulative intruder.

Ritchie is insidiously dangerous. David Whiteley plays this unpleasantly attractive smiling villain as a jumpy, wretched, bad boy in leather jacket. He is the most interesting character in the play and Whiteley is the most interesting actor on stage.

The other two actors' performances are still uncertain. The shifts and balances of Neal an Rachel are nto quite credible.

Denis Moore keeps the direction clean and simple, concentrating on the relationships between the three.
The stage is uncluttered so we must focus on the characters.

Penhall's dialogue is often smart and well-observed. However, there are sections that are florid or clumsy. Characters talk at each other rather than to each other.

Although the narrative is bleak and the main casualty is Neal and Rachel's a relationship, Penhall does little to garner our sympathy for any of the three characters. They are not likeable so it is difficult to care about their lives, foibles and failures.

Penhall's script, after interval, has a surprise for us. The problem is that the as a dramatic turning point seems contrived. The play feels bumpy as it travels to its ending. Penhall's script feels fragmented and there are several false endings.

Love and Understanding needs some refining and some heart.

By Kate Herbert

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