Saturday, 25 November 2017

Desert 6.29pm, Nov 22, 2017 ***

Written by Morgan Rose, Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre
(Red Stitch INK new writing program) 
At Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre until Dec 14, 2017 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Wed Nov 22, 2017 
Stars: ***
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Thurs Nov 23, 2017, and later in print. KH
Eva Seymour, Sarah Sutherland, Joe Pertucci, Darcy Kent_pic byTeresa Noble
Finding one’s identity can be a lifetime task and all members of the unremarkable family in Desert, 6.29pm struggle to define their places in the world and find it even harder to explain their confusions to loved ones.

Morgan Rose’s play peers into the very banal lives of Xan (Eva Seymour), a stroppy, 17 year-old, closeted lesbian, her mum, Crystal (Sarah Sutherland), dad, Rico (Joe Petruzzi), and older brother, Jamie (Darcy Kent), in an isolated, country town.

Xan’s behaviour becomes more manic, secretive and bizarre when she spirals into grief after her mother announces that local girl, Jo, has thrown herself off the overpass.

Her out-of-control reactions, and the self-narration that accompanies that behaviour, indicate that Xan had an intimate relationship with Jo that she is unable or unwilling to reveal, so she remains trapped and alone in her grief.

The first half of the play is the more effective, with its comical, well-observed dialogue, characters and relationships that highlight the ordinariness of this family, their respective fantasies and thwarted ambitions.

However, the second half loses momentum when it diverges too far from Xan’s story and shifts focus to Jamie and his girlfriend, Abby (Ella Caldwell), sending the story off the rails, with little being satisfactorily resolved or completed by the end.

Bridget Balodis’ direction starts briskly and effectively but the short, snapshot scenes are too frequent in the latter half.

Seymour’s Xan has a brittle edginess but it is a difficult role as Xan’s adolescent meanness is so dislikeable even though we sympathise with her grief.

Sutherland is a delight as Crystal who craves approval and scrambles to keep the family functioning, while Petruzzi captures Rico’s bluff, blokey quality that hides his morbid fear of dying, and Kent embodies the video game geek who has not fulfilled his potential.

Rose’s script, developed through Red Stitch’s new writing program, also has potential but it still needs some work.

By Kate Herbert

Cast: Eva Seymour, Joe Petruzzi, Ella Caldwell, Sarah Sutherland Darcy Kent

Director - Bridget Balodis
Set costume -Romany Harper
Lighting Amelia Lever-Davidson
Composition / Sound - Ian Moorhead

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