Venue: Meraki Arts Bar (Darlinghurst NSW), Nov 17 – Dec 3, 2022
Playwright: Richard Greenberg
Director: Jane Angharad
Cast: Steve Corner, Alec Ebert, Meg Hyeronimus
Images by Clare Hawley
The Collyer brothers of New York City gained infamy a century ago, for their obsessive hoarding and other generally bizarre ways. Richard Greenberg’s The Dazzle explores their life together in a Harlem brownstone home, for a portrait of two grown men, trapped in a peculiar world, only partly of their own doing. The intriguing characters are depicted by Greenberg beyond the narrow confines of their public personae; Homer and Langley are given depth, dimension and indeed humanity, along with marvellous wit, in a play that absolutely endears and captivates.
Jane Angharad’s direction of the piece ensures that the strange relationships and personalities of The Dazzle, resonate with authenticity. She keeps us fascinated and increasingly invested, by finding ways to make elements of the narrative feel recognisable and intimate, even though most are unlikely to have experienced anything like it.
Costumes by Aloma Barnes render for the production an accurate sense of time and place, whilst adding some commendable visual flair, but set design for the Collyer home requires greater dilapidation, to better convey the severity of their situation. Catherine Mai’s lights and Johnny Yang’s sounds, work intricately with oscillations between comedy and drama in the sumptuous text, to build emotional intensity, for a journey that takes us somewhere unexpectedly rich with emotion.
Actor Steve Corner is brilliant in the role of Homer, with an immense range that incisively conveys the complexities involved, in this tale of extreme eccentricity. The textured flamboyance he brings to the show, is simply wonderful. Langley is played by Alec Ebert, who brings an unneeded restraint to the stage, but whose tender approach prevents us from perceiving the brothers as mere caricature. Meg Hyeronimus is convincing as Milly, the only person to have entered the Collyer’s private sanctuary in The Dazzle. Hyeronimus revels in the radical transformation that occurs for her part, able to represent both incarnations of Milly with equal conviction.
We are fascinated by stories like the Collyers’ or the Beales’ (of the legendary Grey Gardens documentary film) not because the people concerned might feel alien, but because we sense the closeness in proximity between their outrageous existences and our normal lives. It is a thin line that separates, and a precarious psychological boundary, that keeps us from falling off the deep end. There may be truth in declaring that normal is only ever a matter of subjectivity, but misery is a state of being that refuses to be denied.