Saturday, February 16, 2013

Postnuptials

Photo by Bob Seary

Another Bright Idea Productions present the Australian premiere of David Earle's POSTNUPTIALS in the Parade Playhouse at the NIDA Theatre complex, Kensington.

POSTNUPTIALS by David Earle is in genre a comic farce. It however has a social agenda attached: "The play explores thematic concerns of gay marriage, heterosexual infidelity, and an individual's quest to challenge parental conditioning, laid down in childhood that at times may inhibit an adult's own choices in life, and perhaps the meeting of true minds and hearts in search for love" - Director's notes.

David Earle is an American (West Coast) writer. POSTNUPTIALS, from what I can gather, has been in development over some time, in several different versions. This one springing from a reaction to the 2008 Californian Proposition 8 (Prop 8) which restricted recognition of marriage to opposite-sex couples. The play feels like an old fashioned television situation-comedy written to please too many people. It is an attempt to write a screwball farce with a gently political edge. It fails.

This production by anotherbrightidea, a new company of interested artists, is not very secure. The style of acting has no consistency of tone and seems to have been left to the floundering efforts of the actors to keep it afloat. Hard to do when the play is a fairly leaky vessel to begin with. Of the acting, no one is in the same play, most of them acting in a bubble of self protection. Michael Harrs is the Director and Set and Costume Designer.

Three actors meet the mark and give more creativity to the play then it deserves. Sam O'Sullivan, as Mark, finds exactly the right style and demeanor to give his very deluded character the souffle energies of fun. The fact that Mr O'Sullivan has no other actor near his conceptual skills and vision in the playing of the work, and still scores laughs, is a credit to his disciplines and theatrical intelligence. Recently, seen in the award winning PUNK ROCK, and a well reviewed performance in A STEADY RAIN at Tap Gallery, this is further credit to his gifts. Someone to watch out for. Henry Elsteen playing Kevin Haney, has the responsibility of the leading character at the centre of this play's dilemma. That he maintains a steady integrity to the demands of the play, despite very little useful support from the other actors about him, is a feat of some sustained courage and theatrical stamina. Ms Tallay Wickham as Marliene Andrews, despite a tendency for the sentimental gesture in her final scene, acquits herself with some potential.

This production is part of the Sydney Mardi Gras Festival 2013. The three and half hour (or more) production of TORCH SONG TRILOGY at the Darlinghurst Theatre - also, a part of the Mardi Gras Festival 2013 - is a "good bad play" in a very good production. The time flew. It is a better bet for your bucks. In fact, I highly recommend it.

POSTNUTPIALS is "a bad bad play", with an inept production, and felt, definitely, interminably longer than the three and a half hours or so,of TORCH SONG TRILOGY.

3 comments:

Michael Harrs said...

An uneven review Kevin, at times mean…
You begin by saying that the play reminds you of an old fashioned situation comedy trying to please too many people, what are you saying exactly? It is a conundrum that you offer no answer to? Old or new! Lucille Ball or Modern Family! Since when has it become necessary to challenge a piece because it may have wide appeal. Many theatre goers prefer to advance their own ideas through a comedic piece as opposed to being lectured and assaulted into reflecting upon their personal beliefs.
You make a point that none of the cast are in the same play, yet two of the actors you give credit to, Sam O’Sullivan and Tallay Wickham are both in the garage scene in Act 2 Sc. 2… therefore I guess that scene in the play works for you. To say an actor gives more creativity than the play deserves is as preposterous, as a director saying to me, I could not be given a credit for a play I had performed in at the New Theatre as it was an amateur production. Since when does an actor temper their performance according to the stage they are on?
The play is a contemporary farce and the thematic concerns are to be found there amongst the froth and bubble of the comedy… for those who care to observe and reflect upon them. Not all forms of theatre pursue issues in a profound way with hours of esoteric dialogue, after all this is not Maxim Gorky.
Eileen Hudson’s character Gloria Haney is perhaps the most empathic character in Postnuptial’s, declaring he love for her son Kevin, despite accusations by others that he is gay. Only yesterday I saw an article about Senator Christine Milne supporting her son and deciding to march along side of him in the Mardi Gras parade. God knows how many stories we have heard of GLTG people being ostracized by family and the distress it may cause, let-a-lone those who have taken their own lives. Lillian Andrews is unable to shake off the shackles of her upbringing and find her own values in life, which ultimately is the cause of her marriage to end, despite her husband Kevin professing to her that he will…”wait a week, a month, a year, whatever it takes!” I see no attempt for you to give any credence to these important issues explored in the play.
You end a paragraph in an exclamatory fashion stating that the director is also the set and costume designer. The stylized set has a thematic colour scheme in red, black and white, complete with an Italian red leather L shaped lounge, a ghost chair, and two original Australian art works. The costumes are in keeping with the thematic scheme, the men stylish in black and white diner suits and Lillian’s gown is ablaze with Swarovski crystals enough to blind, however you choose not to engage in any discourse on the set nor the costumes.
As a NIDA graduate, an actor and a drama teacher in the Australian profession, I fail to see why it is necessary for you to be scathing about a production, when you ignore areas of Postnuptial’s and your tone is unnecessarily derogatory. It is unfortunate that you fail to observe any of the writer’s concerns in the play nor reflect upon them, preferring to label Postnuptial’s as “…a bad, bad play!”... A term better suited to a naughty child or a little pig in a nursery rhyme!
Ultimately David Earle is speaking of unconditional love. Not your cup of char! Well Kevin, many human beings in our society today are in their own small way trying to come to terms with this area of life that so often eludes us.
Uneven, self serving and at times mean! By the way the play I mentioned at the New Theatre was Queen Christina which you directed, and I have very fond memories of!!

Michael Harrs
Director, Costume and Set designer

Kevin Jackson said...

Dear Michael,
I am in sympathy with all of the ideas that you feel this play embraces.That those ideas do not arrive as clearly as your note to me makes them in the performance might make the production at fault (or I?) I have empathy too for the real life struggles of many of the gay community and are impatient, like you, with the rest of society in its attitudes and responses to that minority.
What I am talking about is the lack of success of both the writer and this particular production in bringing that sufficiently to the fore on the stage in the theatre.
The aspiration of anotherbrightidea is that of 'angels', undoubtedly, and one does not set out to create 'bad' work, but the result, in my experience, in the Parade Playhouse last week,fell far short of delivering on all of those.
You and your company can estimate from the experience of the rehearsals and production whether you have the performance you set out to give us.
I feel, as well, that I am not the only member of the audience, at my visit, that was disappointed. I hope you and your company are not. The effort to create at all is enormous but unpredictable in its outcomes. One can only honestly work as best as possible to achieve it.
My response was my honest response never setting out to be mean but, honest.

Michael Harrs said...


Thank you Kevin

The character Gloria Haney states clearly that ..."He is our son, we should love him no matter." I fail to see how that could be made clearer. Lillian also states... "I can't change the way I was raised'

And of the stylised set and costumes, no mention.
You end a paragraph in an exclamatory fashion stating that the director is also the set and costume designer. The stylized set has a thematic colour scheme in red, black and white, complete with an Italian red leather L shaped lounge, a ghost chair, and two original Australian art works. The costumes are in keeping with the thematic scheme, the men stylish in black and white diner suits and Lillian’s gown is ablaze with Swarovski crystals enough to blind, however you choose not to engage in any discourse on the set nor the costumes.

Michael Harrs