Wednesday, 20 January 1999

The White Rose by Steven Dawson, 20 Jan 1999

 Out Cast Theatre at David Williamson Theatre until Feb 14
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Has the Sydney Mardi Gras ever have a Nana Mouskouri float? She was once a gay icon in the same way that Patsy (Absolutely Fabulous) is now. Picture dozens of men dressed in lush dark wigs, enormous spectacles, flowing skirts and big bosoms. Nana was the Greek Dolly Parton in the 60's.

She was also known as The White Rose and Steven Dawson's latest play of the same name has a Nana look-alike at the centre of its comic plot. It is a farce, complete with slamming doors, mistaken identities, gender-bending and secret lovers.

The difference is that most of the characters are gay or lesbian. Ben (Robert Parlavecchio) has been avoiding his gay mates for months and is about to marry Angela (Katerina Kotsonis) the Greek-Australian lesbian from his gym who has temporarily abandoned her girlfriend. (Rosemary Johns).

His friend, Hal (Peter Edmonds) is astonished and horrified when Ben, now known as Demetri, tells him they are marrying 'for the presents": namely lots of white goods, a third share in the family car- wrecking business and a $500,000 dowry. Jackpot!

So where does Nana come in? Angela, to prove Demetri is a worthy catch, has convinced her mother and grandmother (Mo'ria Limberis) and two brothers (John Mandoukis) that he is related to Nana.

Hal is dragooned into doing his Nana impersonation for the wedding. Edmonds in drag is hilarious. He minces, and poses and smiles his Nana smile until Nikkos, the thug brother, falls in love with him.

And the twists go on. This is a clever premise for a comedy with plenty of scope for farcical confusion and role swapping. There are some clumsy directorial choices and the dialogue of most of the characters is undifferentiated but the pace is swift and, particularly in the second half, the jokes come thick and fast. The predominantly gay and lesbian audience hooted throughout.

The performances are uneven but Kotsonis plays the feisty Angela with relish and Limberis bubbles and seethes hilariously as granny and mum. Edmonds becomes the feature as his Nana gets drunker, lustier and more out of control and jumps the straight brother.

The play is better structured and more appealing to the general public than previous plays by Dawson and is an appropriate contribution to the Midsumma Festival.


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