Review: The Spoils (Flight Path Theatre)

Venue: Flight Path Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Jan 29 – Feb 8, 2020
Playwright: Jesse Eisenberg
Director: Ian Warwick
Cast: Rebecca Abdel-Messih, Michael Becker, Isabel Dickson, Haydan Hawkins, Kabir Singh
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
Ben lives in a New York apartment, paid for by his parents. He has dropped out of college, and spends his days pretending to be a film maker; an aimless existence with no responsibilities should mean an easy life, but there is no end to the angst that he experiences. He looks to be jealous of everyone, and as a result behaves terribly to all. Jesse Eisenberg’s The Spoils is critical of over-privileged Americans, but its representations are seldom compelling, and its comedy infrequently funny.

Although not short of conviction or passion, the show struggles to deliver laughs. Directed by Ian Warwick, The Spoils becomes poignant late into Act Two, when Ben shows his true colours, and the escalating drama finally provides a sense of gravity. Actor Michael Becker is committed in the lead role, as are the rest of the cast. Isabel Dickson is particularly strong as Sarah, able to bring a valuable realism to the piece. Set design by Irma Calabrese, along with Roderick van Gelder’s lights are fairly simple in approach, but prove adequate in creating atmosphere for the staging.

There is an insidious quality to the malignity being explored in The Spoils. Ben’s racism is casual, and his misogyny jocular. Those at the receiving end of his insolence, can only turn a blind eye, or risk accusations of instigating disharmony. It has become increasingly obvious to the rest of us, that the powerful can get away with murder. We must learn to respond with intolerance when injustice is apparent, even if it means disrupting the peace.

www.flightpaththeatre.org

5 Questions with Rebecca Abdel-Messih and Kabir Singh

Rebecca Abdel-Messih

Kabir Singh: What do you love about your life as an actor?
Rebecca Abdel-Messih: I looooove how you’ll never play the same person twice. I say that acting is like travelling in a time machine, it takes me all over the world. I’ve recently been in Coram Boy, a world set in the 1800’s England and now The Spoils is set in 2015 New York and I’ve just learnt so much about the history of the countries. I’m yet to play an Aussie! That’s probably my next project.

What are the similarities between you and Reshma and what drew you towards the character?
I definitely can relate to her culturally, being a first generation Aussie myself, I understand sometimes being caught in two different worlds. Growing up with strange foods and a different language to people I went to school with. But my God, I love how badass she is! Something I’m definitely not haha but I admire her determination and passion not only in her career, but when standing up to Ben. I wish I could just kick him honestly.

What is your favourite part of the rehearsal process?
I love everything about it. The crew and cast are so fun, we can be serious one minute and having a laugh the next. I also love learning about my character and what makes her tick.

What does Kalyan bring to the table for you in this relationship?
He’s a sweet guy who wants the best for Reshma. Every woman’s dream. He brings security, goofiness and loyalty. Also damn how good’s that man bun and facial hair!

If you had to meet an actor dead or alive , who would it be and why?
Robin Williams! I honestly just want to give him a hug.

Kabir Singh

Rebecca Abdel-Messih: What do you love most about playing Kalyan Mathema?
Kabir Singh: Kalyan is a tender, innocent soul who has come this far on a scholarship to NYC because of his own hard work. What I love most about Kalyan is how proud he is of his Nepalese culture and shows it off constantly through his cuisine. I think he has very strong roots embedded in him but also has the openness to learn about other cultures and accept them for what they are. He is a hustler and a hard worker. A place like New York City will eat you alive if you don’t hustle and I think he doesn’t need to be told that, it is already embedded in his being from the get go .

How important is it to Kalyan to find someone like Reshma?
Although Kalyan is an independent man, having a partner alongside him is important. He has found that with Reshma who is successful, smart and strong minded. She voices her opinions about Ben which at times, Kalyan does not. The two compliment each other and even though Kalyan is somewhat a genius and will go through life doing great and important things, he has other ideas about how life should go and that is to settle down and have a family. For that reason Reshma is very important to Kalyan. Yes he loves her and wants to start a family with her at some point and the fact that he has found her, and she is close to his heritage, is from New York and is a doctor has a lot of draw points.

Is there hope for Ben?
There is always hope. Ben is a misguided soul with past traumas and just hasn’t healed, so he keeps pushing them on other people, especially Kalyan. Maybe because he comes from money and has a deluded sense of film making you may think there is no hope for Ben, but he has redeemable qualities at times and if he chooses to focus on those positive qualities then maybe there is hope for Ben just yet.

What would your ideal dinner party look like?
My ideal dinner party would consist of my closest friends and I would cook for all of them, take shots of vodka with every bite (Russian style) and be plastered before dessert.

What do you love about acting the most?
The idea to be able to explore your emotions and your opinions and ideas in a safe space. What I love the most is that it gives you a platform to really explore a characters mentality, physicality and emotional availability. These three things make a human being and to explore someone else so different from yourself, that you really have to dig deep and find emotions and experiences within yourself and draw parallels that you never thought was possible. Acting is doing the impossible sometimes and that’s what attracts me the most.

Rebecca Abdel-Messih and Kabir Singh can be seen in The Spoils by Jesse Eisenberg.
Dates: 29 Jan – 8 Feb, 2020
Venue: Flight Path Theatre

Review: The Great Divorce (Flight Path Theatre)

Venue: Flight Path Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Sep 25 – Oct 5, 2019
Playwright: Roslyn Hicks (based on the novel by C. S. Lewis)
Director: Richard Woodhouse
Cast: Peter David Allison, Hannah Forsyth, Jamey Foxton, Roslyn Hicks, Jessica Kelly, Emily Pollard, Isaac Reefman, Richard Woodhouse

Theatre review
Lewis finds himself in hell, but not permanently it seems, as the gates to heaven remain open, to the possibility of repentance. He witnesses a series of debates, between the ghosts of hell and spirits of heaven, about where one would choose to reside. C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, adapted for the stage by Roslyn Hicks, is a work of the Christian tradition, fundamentally reliant on binary concepts, but is nonetheless valuable with the many philosophical ideas it raises. At its best, the writing is transcendental and inspiring, but it can also bear a sanctimonious attitude to its representations that, predictably perhaps, proves grating.

Directed by Richard Woodhouse, the split between heaven and hell, is dramatically amplified. There is certainly no ambiguity permitted in the staging, and we always know who the us and them are, in The Great Divorce. Provocative discussions are depicted in a slightly too obvious manner, as if fearful that its essential beliefs could ever be misconstrued. Eight actors ranging from bombastic to the excessively dry, present a big roster of characters, with lead performer Isaac Reefman’s unassuming approach as Lewis, often seeming deficient in confidence. There is however, a quality of sincerity in all of the cast, that helps to sustain our attention.

The title of the piece reveals heaven and hell as human constructs, and the need some may have, not only for clear distinctions about the nature of the afterlife, but also for guiding doctrines that pertain to the here and now. C. S. Lewis presents his arguments in convenient dichotomies, although it is clear that these supposedly opposing thoughts exist in a singular mind. We observe the struggles in The Great Divorce, understanding that things are presented in the form of good and bad, but there is no denying our ability to easily identify with both sides. Faith is necessary because doubt is interminable, just as heaven cannot exist without hell.

www.flightpaththeatre.org