Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director; produced playwright (21 plays). Scripts pub. Currency Press. She worked as actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate was Head of Drama/Teacher, NMIT; Coordinator of Prof. Writing/ Editing, Swinburne Uni. Read her reviews here or: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Friday, 19 May 2017
Minnie and Liraz, May 18, 2017 ***
Written by Lally Katz, by Melbourne Theatre Company Fairfax
Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, until June 24, 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Thurs May 18, 2017
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Fri May 19, 2017 and later in print. KH
Virginia Gay, Rhys McConnochie, Nancye Hayes - photo Jeff Busby
humour about old age, serious illness, death and funerals makes you laugh, then
the folks and jokes in Minnie and Liraz may tickle your funny bone – or your
the Autumn Road Retirement Village in Caulfield, Lally Katz’s latest play pokes
fun at the strokes and heart attacks, deafness, widowhood, grandparenting and horribly
failed hip replacements of the various geriatric residents.
Minnie Cohen’s (Nancye Hayes) long-term Bridge partner dies unexpectedly, Liraz
Weinberg (Sue Jones), whose Bridge partner is also recently deceased, proposes
they join forces to win the hotly contested Australian Seniors Bridge Tournament.
agrees to partner her former rival on the proviso that Liraz introduce her
single grandson, Ichabod (Peter Paltos), to Minnie’s unmarried granddaughter,
Rachel (Virginia Gay).
people mellow with age, but Minnie and Liraz buck that trend, with Minnie being
ambitious, abrasive and quietly critical while Liraz is loud, mean, crass and
competitive to the death.
production succeeds almost exclusively because of its capable actors who give
life to Katz’s comic caricatures and work like Trojans to milk every last laugh
out of the rather obvious jokes and observational humour about old age.
sprightly and refined as Minnie and plays her with a vibrating anxiety and
acerbic tone that emphasise Minnie’s deep-seated fears about failing as a
parent and her obsessive need to marry off her granddaughter.
a comic highlight as Liraz, getting huge laughs from her deft manoeuvring of Liraz’s
motorised mobility scooter, her vulgar jokes, loud and rusty laugh and her
Minnie and Liraz unashamedly use emotional blackmail to manipulate their family
and friends, making them both thoroughly dislikeable – but comical.
very funny as the eccentric and clumsy Rachel, playing her with clownish
awkwardness as she struggles to overcome her self-loathing and under-confidence,
despite her success as the headmistress of a primary school.
Ichabod, Liraz’s socially inept physicist grandson, Paltos channels the
brainiacs in Big Bang Theory, getting laughs from his weirdly compulsive behaviour
and his obsession with alternative universes, but his character remains
McConnochie is sympathetic as Morris, Minnie’s lonely and long-suffering
husband, while Georgina Naidu is relentlessly cheerful as the aged care worker,
Anne-Louise Sarks, allows the actors to make the most of the gags, but her staging
the revolving stage (Mel Page) provides multiple locations in the retirement
home and the slow scene transformations initially mirror the residents’ pace of
the life, these scene changes eventually slow the production to a snail’s pace.
insubstantial, comic script includes occasional moments of pathos, such as Morris’s
poignant war story told during ‘memoir group’ and Minnie’s revelation of her
regrets but such moments are infrequent and the dialogue is repetitive.
funereal humour and the digs at possessive grandparents are certainly funny,
but this production succeeds primarily because of the comedic skills of its