Wednesday, 11 October 2017

American Song, Oct 8, 2017 ****

Written by Joanna Murray-Smith, by Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre 
At Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre, until Nov 5, 2017 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts in print on Thurs Oct 12, 2017, and online (date TBC). KH
Joe Petruzzi

Parents may relate to a father’s sentimental reminiscences about holding his baby son tucked safely inside his coat on a winter’s day.

They may also feel the aching familiarity of that same father, Andy’s (Joe Petruzzi) pain and alienation when that baby grows into his silent, secretive and surly teenage son, Robbie.

Petruzzi gives a sensitive, nuanced but muscular performance as Andy in American Song, Joanna Murray-Smith’s 90 minute, solo play that was commissioned for an America audience.

Tom Healey’s assured and well-paced direction lends the play emotional and dynamic energy as Andy builds a real, stone wall (designer, Darryl Cordell) while he weaves his tale of hope and joy that turns to grief and horror.

Murray-Smith’s dialogue is conversational and lyrical, philosophical and natural, while Petruzzi is convincing and compelling as Andy, playing him with passion and sympathy.

The writer successfully creates a dramatic structure that initially lulls us into a false sense of ‘happy families’, then sows the seeds of doubt that grow like weeds into genuine fears until Andy reveals one final, horrific incident that changed his life, and the lives of others, forever.

Guns are far too easy to access in America, gun crime is rife and, in a week when so many died in Las Vegas, this play confronts the human loss that is the result of Americans’ unholy and dangerous ‘right to bear arms’.

Healey’s intelligent and deceptively simple production incorporates evocative lighting (Bronwen Pringle) and a subtle soundscape (Patrick Cronin) that build atmosphere as the tension escalates in Andy’s story.

Through Andy’s musings, Murray-Smith asks where the simpler, more humanist America society that was characterised in Walt Whitman’s famous poem, Leaves of Grass, has gone.

This week, the world is once more asking the same question.

By Kate Herbert

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