peter A cross

ramblings from a troubled mind

Posts Tagged ‘Zebra

Zebras crossing… blunted swords

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Colin Friels, Nadine Garner, Bryan Brown

 

The theatre can be a zoo and not all of the animals are on stage. I certainly felt like a mindless sheep as I was herded in to the theatre to see the opening of the STC’s latest offering Zebra, by automated male and female voices all around the theatre annoyingly telling me every minute to “turn off my mobile phone”. It got my dander up. 

Zebra is the new play by writer Ross Mueller starring Bryan Brown as Jimmy, Colin Friels as Larry and Nadine Garner as Robinson and directed by Lee Lewis. Set in a neighbourhood ‘dive’ Irish bar in the post GFC and pre-Obama New York, 

The last time I saw Friels on stage he was with his wife Judy Davis in the STC’s production of ‘Victory’ and they were magnificent. I can’t remember ever having seen Brown on stage although I know he has done some good work or at least I am told he has. Garner has a resume that would be the envy of many an actor twice her age. 

Zebra attempts to tell the simple story of what price love. Can a failed Beach Volleyball player turned property tycoon from Australia convince a successful dot-com millionaire who had the sense to know when enough was enough that he really, really loves his daughter and is not just after that big pay-out. Larry (Friels) is horrified to find out that Jimmy (Brown), a man uncomfortably close to his own age is marrying his estranged daughter – is it for love or is it for the money? 

But something tonight didn’t gel. 

Mueller has written a lot of words in this play and for them to work there needs to be a rhythm, a dance between the characters. They seemed to be a beat or two off. Maybe that rhythm will come as they get in to the run and settle their characters. 

Set designer David McKay has created a sensational playground for these actors to play in, a neighbourhood bar that’s going bust, and they all strut and fret throwing back bourbon or scotch at 11:30 in the morning with free abandon to allow them to explore what has happened to the American dream, to manhood, to America – when cash, if you still have it, is king and if you don’t you can barter whatever you do have for it. All Jimmy has is the love of Larry’s daughter and the rest is a negotiation – what price is that love worth? 

Friels and Brown prowl the stage goading and prodding each other like two aging alpha males; who is the better salesman, who has the bigger balls? Friels is good but not great as the cash rich father of the bride to be and Brown is great but not good as the cash strapped suitor. Maybe it’s the age difference, maybe Friels isn’t quite old enough and Brown not quite young enough to make the scenario work. 

Garner plays the down on her luck widowed bar owner faced with foreclosure somewhere between victim and feisty and she plays it well but she has little to do in the big scheme of things. 

“A Zebra walks into a bar, up the wall and across the ceiling then out the door…” and so the gag goes. There are plenty of gags like this in Zebra; there are some genuinely funny moments but few moments of pathos to offset the boy’s own humour. 

Theatre by its very nature is contrived but there is a growing trend to a much more organic form of play/acting, think The Wild Duck, a more collaborative evening that involves the audience as willing participants in what is happening. In this play we are told to sit back, watch and let us the actors do the work for you. Sure we’ll throw in some Sorkin-esque dialogue and talk over each other as if it’s all happening real-time but we’re in charge and you are the audience. It’s almost as if Mueller has one foot in both camps and committed to neither. 

And something else was missing on opening night there was a warning that strobe lighting was to be used during the production, probably during a really ordinary fight sequence to help cover the fact that these two guys are not fresh from NIDA, I’m guessing about that, but no strobe, so there might have been a couple of technical hitches going on back of stage as well. 

I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the production, because I did but as we made that long post theatrical walk down the wharf corridor we pondered that something didn’t quite work and we didn’t really know what it was – cast or play or direction or maybe just all three on the same night. 

Zebra plays @ The Wharf Theatre until 30 April 2011.

Written by peteracross

March 11, 2011 at 16:41

It’s catch up time kiddies – theatre and film oh my!

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So you laugh and then you cry

 

I feel sort of, kind of guilty bad, I haven’t written anything about nothing for this little blog of mine for a while so I’m going to use this night to just catch up. See how we are all travelling.              

Now to the y’arts:              

I’ve been seeing a lot of film and theatre lately – some good, some not so good. Well it has been Oscar season.              

The crop of movies that hit the Oscar awards trail this year was pretty damn fine.                            

I was left untouched by Black Swan – although I did think Mila Kunis was very good – she’s the annoying Jackie from ‘That 70’s Show’.  Natalie didn’t really do it for me and Mamma played by Barbra Hershey – well I wasn’t having a bar of her. (I know but sometimes you just have to say it)                            

True Grit I thought the girl, the child; the little one was brilliant, I mean she acted the pants off most of the people working in film today; she was a joy to watch, listen to and get carried away with. I really enjoyed the movie even though it took me a good half an hour to work out what Jeff Bridges was saying.                            

Inception I loved every hour of every minute of every second. I can’t understand why people found it so hard to follow – were they on drugs?                            

The King’s Speech, well I need say nothing about that, so of course I will; a movie right up my processional arch. From Jeff to Cole to little ol’ Helen it hit every right nerve – I was a tingle throughout, despite a few little errors of historical fact.                            

The Social Network I enjoyed but wasn’t in raptures and I am a huge FaceBook fan. And I always love a good-looking young cast – so I was as surprised as anyone not to be swept up by it. Little Juzzie T is turning into a fine young actor – he might have a career there one day.                            

Toy Story 3 what can I say: I want to see actors now – I’m at that age. As good as it was and as real as they looked and as well done as it was – damn it I want humans on stage.                            

The Fighter, The Kid’s Are Alright and 127 Hours I didn’t get to see but I’m sure I will over the next month. I had so much good, heavy film I was very pleased to be asked to the premiere of Hall Pass; mindless entertainment with laugh out loud (lol) moments, nothing taxing but good ol’ fashioned fun.                            

Oh and just for the hell of it a movie I am one of the Executive Producers on, Violet Tendencies which had two screenings at Queer Screen, with a third screening coming up at the Beresford Hotel  on Monday 21 March (I will be stuck with Hamlet  at the STC ) – go see it or hand in your queer card.                            

And then there was the Theatre:                            

The great thing about seeing live theatre – as opposed to dead theatre I guess – is the variety and this last week has been one heck of a ride.                            

From Ruhl to Rossini, from Rossini to Islam, from Islam to Ibsen and not in that particular order.                            

The Barber of Seville,  or as I wittily remarked Barbra of Seville, was a bit like a Farrelly movie – nothing taxing just a few humable ditties and a bit of ol’ farce. All in all a good night at Oprah’s place.                            

As for Islamic Harmonics (not really a play but I went) I can see why the middle ages were in the middle. They are a bit like the third series of a TV show – I kept looking for the shark to jump and there she was all trussed up and disguised as Winsome Evans.  Too much of Winsome spoils you for all that follow. But seriously I enjoyed the night even though I felt that one of the two Whirling Dervishes didn’t really whirl as much as one hoped he would. Perhaps he was all whirled out from an earlier unannounced whirl.                            

The Other Room or The Vibrator Play even though it got PMSLOL from the opening night crowd left me wanting something a bit… more, harder, something with more bone in it. It seemed to be an opportunity missed to actually deal with the issues that surrounded sexuality and isolation at the turn of the century – the last century that is not the one that we are in. Performances were all okay, direction seemed adequate, staging was very much a tribute to the era but something didn’t gel. There were pockets of resistance through the room and at half time, because it felt like we were in it for the long haul, we wondered “What are we missing here? Why aren’t we getting it?” No one had a good answer.                            

The Wild Duck, well thank heavens for mallards. Simple set dialogue cut back and down and what a great story to be told. It was a great end to a couple of weeks of theatre and if this is an indication of how Belvoir will go post Neil Armfield then we are in for a heck of a good year of theatre.                            

The STC is playing catch up and they have a lot of running to do.                            

So this week it’s Zebra at the STC with Colin Friels, Bryan Brown and Nadine Garner and back to semi-proper reviews.                            

Thanks for staying with me and as my old parish priest used to say “See you in the dark.”              

And only because I love the opening credits so much I’ve added this: