Review: The Local (Insomniac Theatre)

insomniacVenue: Exchange Hotel (Balmain NSW), Mar 8 – 20, 2016
Playwright: Richie Black
Director: Maggie Scott
Cast: Jamie Collette, Steve Maresca, Andrew Mead, Cecilia Morrow, Michael Wood
Image by GiGee Photography

Theatre review
It is not an original set up, with the larrikin underdog bemoaning the loss of community and the over-development of his favourite watering hole. We cannot resist the sentimentality of an Australian story that capitalises on our longing for innocent times, but Richie Black’s The Local offers more than the predictable. The playwright spares us the funny guy with a heart of gold narrative, and with brilliant wit, creates an entertaining work of bright, biting humour. There are hints of social commentary in The Local, but its main intention is to amuse, which results in an unusually light perspective of the subject matter, but the production is nonetheless satisfying.

Design aspects are virtually absent, giving the impression of an uncomfortable roughness, but the show is tightly rehearsed, and director Maggie Scott’s attention to detail with characterisations make for a vibrant and energetic staging. The cast establishes a confident and spirited chemistry that delivers consistently delightful comic timing, with Steve Maresca and Cecilia Morrow especially memorable for a sense of playfulness they bring to their roles. Both actors are vivacious, each with bold approaches to performance that keeps us attentive. As Ben Munro, Jamie Collette is required to play a more grounded part in the ensemble, but he takes every opportunity to bring animation to his interpretation, while single-handedly maintaining plot coherence. The comedy in The Local is big and brash, and although not without sophistication, the play does not call for understated performances, and the actors’ extravagances prove to be infectious.

It is a parochial Sydney story, but told with intelligent dialogue and sharp humour. The personalities could not be more ordinary, but their individual quirks are amplified to form the core of an effective comedy that accurately reflects a slice of contemporary life. The Local can afford to be more poignant in what it is able to say about our culture, our economy and our ambitions, but perhaps it is its insistence at declaring the glass half full that makes it true blue Australian.

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Review: Jerry And Tom (Insomniac Theatre)

insomniactheatreVenue: Exchange Hotel (Balmain NSW), Apr 9 – 30, 2015
Playwright: Rick Cleveland
Director: Maggie Scott
Cast: Boris Bkric, Steve Maresca, Andrew Mead
Image by GiGee Photography

Theatre review
Rick Cleveland’s Jerry And Tom is a fairly uncomplicated comedy about two family men who also happen to moonlight as ruthless hitmen. We go from one humorous scenario to another, depicting their gruesome murders, all with a charming Bronx-type accent. Maggie Scott’s direction is a simple, no frills approach that focuses on character dynamics and chemistry. Pacing of the piece is jaunty and very light, with a delightful clarity in the way its plot is conveyed. The comedy is consistent but mild, and given the exaggerated context, a greater sense of irony would probably provide the show with a stronger edge.

Performances are polished and compelling, with all three actors showing good commitment and enthusiasm. Boris Brkic has a laid-back charm that makes his portrayal believable, and a keen sense of timing that allows a hint of authenticity to elevate his role Tom from mere caricature. Jerry is played by Steve Maresca whose infectious enjoyment of the stage connects with us, and although the actor’s serious side is quite obviously less developed than his funny side, he holds his own against more seasoned counterparts. Andrew Mead plays the remaining characters with excellent energy, although more versatility is required for a greater differentiation between personalities. There is a general cautiousness that feels too safe for the material at hand. We need a playfulness to meet with the reckless attitude of the narratives, but the performers seem too careful or apprehensive perhaps, to give the show the wild abandon it deserves.

Music from the television series Dexter underscores most of the blacked out scene changes, but unlike Dexter, we explore very little of the “dark passenger” that compels Jerry And Tom to do the things they do. Without enough psychological bite, the show ends up feeling a little too frothy, and after 90 minutes of senseless killing, we try to find meaning but discover emptiness instead. The production is not always satisfying, but the good work of karma does prevail in the story, and sometimes, that is all than we can bargain for.

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