By John Patrick Shanley
Directed by Beng Oh
With Kate Cole, Olivia Connolly, Brett Cousins, Dion Mills & Kat Stewart
Lighting by Nick Merrylees
Where’s My Money? (March 5 – March 30, 2003)- Chris Boyd, Herald Sun 12-Mar-03
This week in New York playwright John Patrick Shanley is directing his play Dirty Story, yet another in a long line of his works about love, hate and sex.
In Dirty Story, the kinky and violent lovers turn out to be Israel and Palestine. No, really! Shanley loves morality almost as much as he loves a good laugh.
On this side of the world, until the end of March, you can see another of Shanley’s nasty little comedies about the vile things we do in the name of friendship, love and marriage.
It’s a good thing we live in a godless world, because the Big Guy would stamp these folk into the dust like unwanted cigarettes.
In Where’s My Money? the only thing the meek inherit is the earth they’re buried under. Those who love are used, abused and ripped off.
It’s a world in which love is an unnecessary vulnerability. Ditto trust. All it does is lower your guard.
The play begins with two old “friends” meeting in a cafe. Since the two previously saw one another, Natalie (Kat Stewart) has traded rough-trade romance for a clinical marriage with a lawyer.
Celeste (Kate Cole) is persisting with her loser boyfriend – and her acting career – but having a torrid and masochistic affair with a married lawyer.
The beauty of the first act of this play is that it shifts like plates in California during an eight-on-the-Richter-scale earthquake. Ascendency is as fleeting as true love. Facades are quickly dropped and knives are drawn. Literally! There are even a couple of unruly ghosts exacting revenge.
While Beng Oh’s production gets a bit out of hand in the first scene of the second act, the play is performed with such gleeful, manic energy that we are powerless to resist it.
And while Shanley lets us off the hook in a way that countryman Neil LaBute never would, he still manages to give us all a good bitch-slapping.
Where’s My Money? is easily the best thing on in Melbourne right now, and another amazing effort from Red Stitch.
Amy Dobson, Vibewire.net – 03-Apr-03
Where’s My Money? (March 5 – 30, 2003) by John Patrick Shanley. Directed by Beng Oh.
Where’s My Money? is a play full of intelligence and wit – with some moments of rare profundity and insight too. A great choice for Red Stitchs first production of the year, the writing holds its own, but thankfully, in this production its solidly backed by great acting and direction.
Celeste, played charmingly by Kate Cole, is an out of work actress with a limp and an unemployed stoner boyfriend. She runs into old acquaintance Natalie (Kat Stewart) in a caf, who is now an accountant and married to a lawyer. Celeste is perfectly dressed in a slip and bright cut off tights, next to the aggravatingly immaculate Natalie, in her red designer suit and bag to match. Celestes past choices and present life are called into question by both, painfully judged by Natalie and re-assessed by Celeste. For Natalie, the past is dredged up into the present unexpectedly at the end of the scene when the ghost of Tommy storms into the caf to ask, or rather demand from Natalie Where’s My Money?!
The play is beautifully structured, consisting of five scenes, and in all but the last scene we are introduced to a character who has been mentioned in the previous scene, thus more and more about each of the characters and their lives is slowly revealed. All actors are very well cast in their roles, and thus the characters are fascinatingly three dimensional. Brett Cousins does a great job of inspiring empathy as Natalies divorce lawyer husband, worn out and jaded from both previous and present love. Dion Mills plays his boss and confident Sidney, while also cast as the ghost of Tommy. In each of these roles Mills vocal and physical qualities are outstanding: intense, yet multi-levelled enough to inspire everything from hatred to admiration as Sidney, and real fear in the audience as Tommy.
The forth scene between Sidney and his wife Marcia Marie (Olivia Connolly) was a particularly good demonstration of the skill of both the actors and director. Within this one scene consisting mainly of an argument between husband and wife, the status was constantly changing, as were the tactics used by each to get what they wanted. The tone of their relationship shifted too, from dominant husband and victim wife, to lovers, to mother and child-like relations. Olivia Connolly had a beautifully calm, sarcastic manor that switched to psychotic anger in seconds.
The space consists of a multi-level platform/stage which runs down the centre of the room. The platform is covered in creased, brownish fabric and sprinkled with dirt and grit, and at either end of it are two red doors. This stage configuration is practical in showing us the action right up close- and dramatically, it is used to great effect, for example, the positioning of light behind the doors as they swing open and one waits, dreading to see what is behind them. Very seldom have I experienced real fear in the theatre, but there were some great moments of suspense in this play that amounted to just that.
Director Beng Oh made some great choices here by keeping the set and blocking reasonably simple yet effective, letting the characters, and the talent of the actors in portraying them drive this production. The play is truthfully and wittily written, with twists and surprises in every scene. The supernatural and the very real intertwine throughout, embodying the way that we manifest our pasts in the present by holding onto people and things. This play is funny and entertaining, not at all moralistic or preachy- yet some profound ideas shine through about the western ideal of happiness and how we treat one another in order to get what it is we think will make us happy.
The good: the play and cast.
The bad: I’d say it was a bit long, but the time flew perhaps the seats are a bit hard.
The vibe: Dont miss it.