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.
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
Stars:**** Review also published in Herald Sun Arts in print on Thurs Oct 12, 2017, and online (date TBC). KH
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.
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,
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.