Review: A Man Walks Into A Bar (Off The Avenue Productions)

offtheavenueVenue: Blood Moon Theatre (Potts Point NSW), Apr 21 – May 7, 2016
Playwright: David Geary
Director: Andrew Beban
Cast: Nina Marsh, Sam Newton, Chris Yaacoubian
Image by Angie Carmen Photography

Theatre review
Much can happen in the space of an hour, and when two people are telling quick quips about the time a man walked into a bar, 60 minutes can be filled with more than a few anecdotes. David Geary’s play is interested in people who go to bars, and the things that can happen in them. We observe life from one of its more mundane locations, trying to catch a reflection of what we look like in our day to day existences. Not every morsel is comedic, but they are all thoughtful fragments that we can relate to.

Nina Marsh and Chris Yaacoubian are individually strong performers who find good chemistry in a show to be remembered for its effervescence. Both have an enthusiastic approach to their material, keen to share jokes with an audience that they keep engrossed. Marsh impresses with a powerful singing voice that she features in several musical numbers, accompanied by Sam Newton whose guitar underscores beautifully the entire production. Yaacoubian is a solid and charming presence that gives the production a delightful sense of confidence. The show requires greater nuance, and more defined character variations in order that poignancy may be achieved, but it is a good effort that expresses interesting ideas.

A lot of what theatre wishes to do, is to find an understanding of the human condition, and to communicate at a level of universality. Art does not have to cater to the masses, but it should attempt to connect. The greatest component of live performance is its captive audience. It presents an opportunity to share experiences, which implies a requirement to first locate what it is that we hold in common. We many not all enjoy alcohol, and we may not all frequent watering holes, but it is human to crave the companionship offered by social spaces. When a stage is involved, we let the players take control, and they take on the responsibilities of friendship, if only for a short time. A Man Walks Into A Bar is effective when it strikes up intimate conversations that feel as though we are looking into someone’s soul, but less delightful when it trails off, getting caught up in its own moments of drunken stupor.