by Bob Glaudini
Directed by Alex Menglet
With Ella Caldwell, Brett Cousins, David Whiteley & Natalia Novikova
Set Design by Peter Mumford
Lighting by Stelios Karagiannis
Production Manager Alex Pryor
Jack Goes Boating (5/9/07-7/10/07) Cameron Woodhead, The Age (11/09/07)
Bob Glaudini’s Jack Goes Boating drew crowds in New York this year with Philip Seymour Hoffman in the title role.
It’s no surprise that Red Stitch has taken it up – the play offers four strongly drawn characters, making it an attractive proposition for an actors’ theatre.
The romantic comedy involves two American working-class couples negotiating their eccentricities. Jack (David Whiteley) and Clyde (Brett Cousins) are New York limousine drivers who escape tedium by indulging in recreational substances with some enthusiasm.
Clyde and his partner, Lucy (Ella Caldwell), have relationship dramas. Past infidelities rankle on both sides, and their tension provides much of the play’s situational comedy, unknotting itself at inopportune moments.
Meanwhile Jack, a naive and unconfident soul, finds romance with Connie (Natalia Novikova), an equally hapless telesales assistant who works with Lucy spruiking grief counselling seminars. Psychologically delicate, Connie thinks she’s being sexually harassed with alarming regularity. But when she’s attacked on the subway, she’s clearly not imagining things, and Jack must tread carefully to win her affection.
Jack Goes Boating is a slight play. Despite its layering of short scenes, it feels laborious – partly because some scenes don’t justify themselves, partly because the play’s dialogue is too repetitive, emulating inarticulacy without dramatising it or catching its unexpected sparks.
On the other hand, this production plays to the show’s strong suits, humour and deft characterisation, and mitigates its deficiencies. Whiteley makes a great foil as the dopey hero, with a shadow-play sequence where he learns to cook among the funniest moments. Caldwell is a winning combo of brashness and empathy, Cousins has the shouty end of American humour down pat. And Novikova gives a brilliantly nuanced portrayal of the slightly unhinged Connie.
You go to Red Stitch for the acting and director Alex Menglet draws out a fine ensemble performance, bringing this funny, light, drug-addled love story to life.