ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London Review
I have just read Jeffrey Eugenides’ wonderful novel Middlesex, featuring a Greek family set in a changing Detroit from a city dominated by the car giants of the 1930s, through the riots of the 1960s to the present day. Lisa D’Amour’s play looks at the results of the destruction of a community, the economic recession and the isolation of those living in the suburbs through a black comedy featuring two families who are neighbours but for whom coming together is in itself awkward as the cracks are exposed.
Initially we are concerned for the new arrivals, pale faced with heavy black eye make up, Sharon (Clare Dunne) and Kenny (Will Adamsdale) who looks odd, as if his suit still has its coat hanger in it. This couple have no furniture and are the recipients of the most hideous coffee table from established couple Ben (Stuart McQuarrie) and Mary (Justine Mitchell) who are hosting the barbecue. Ben is living on redundancy money having been laid off by a bank and Mary is getting increasing anxious and self medicating with alcohol. Mary’s attempt to keep up appearances is thwarted by the sticking of the patio sliding doors and the disastrously collapsing patio umbrella which injures Kenny on its descent. When it is revealed that Sharon and Kenny met in a substance abuse rehab clinic, the audience is unsurprised but as we get more and more information, Mary and Ben are obviously in pretty bad shape too. There is a wonderful moment when Mary says she has been looking at Ben’s internet searches and empathetically with Ben, Kenny says, “Dude, you can clean that shit!”
This play is about the disintegration of the American dream, the lack of hope and the pain of plantar warts with lots of grim humour. At first we hope that although Ben and Mary are downwardly mobile, Sharon and Kenny will find redemption in their avowal of clean living and humble starter jobs but that would be too idealistic. There is a spectacular moment towards the end of the play which I shall not spoil for you but the designer is to be credited with a symbolic stage stopper.
Performances are excellent, Stuart McQuarrie’s likeable Ben identifying with the British escapism from the economic reality, Justine Mitchell’s neurotic Mary hosting the barbecue where they will be roasted. Oddballs, Sharon and Kenny will fall off the wagon spectacularly and Clare Dunne and Will Adamsdale are brilliantly edgy and unsettling. The entrance of the uncle (Christian Rodska) regretting the passing of the community known before the advent of the internet, seems a little obvious when we have dramas contrasting the number of friends one has on Facebook with the people we actually have physical connect with. For Curtain Up’s review of Detroit in Chicago go here
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.