Left - Monique Spanbrook and Lucinda Armour. Photo - Nicholas Higgins
And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little… whilst set in domestic dysfunction, is a play which according to director Nicholas Papademetriou, addresses the broader issues of “how the world is getting faster, madder and harder.” And if you are looking for a play exploring ideas pertaining to: advancing technology, changing social modes, spirituality, sibling rivalry, co-dependency, paternal abandonment, the education system, vegetarianism (and all its attendant politics), insanity, sexual indiscretions with a student, anal retention and workplace nepotism…. Well…here it is... Miss Reardon has it all… look no further…
Two sisters live in the apartment of their now deceased mother, after nursing her through her terminal illness. Anna (Lucinda Armour) is a teacher in the middle of a mental breakdown/phantom bout of rabies acquired from a stray cat, and is supported by her ever-attentive yet slightly alcoholic vice-principal sister Catherine (Helen O’Connor). When their estranged sister Ceil (Monique Spanbrook) arrives unexpectedly in her dual function as sister and superintendent of the education department, an unlikely power struggle erupts as the past is dredged up in an attempt to discover the reasons behind her sister’s breakdown. As the programme cover states: “One Night, Three sisters, a whole lot of trouble...”
Trouble indeed… lots of it. Primarily, Paul Zindel’s play feels dusty and dull. Though valiant attempts to make the 1967 script pithy and relevant to a contemporary Australian audiences with mentions of “myspace” and “being sent to Iraq”, the sloppy structure of the play, decorated with functional and fleeting characters, namely Mrs Pentrano (Bernadette Hughson), an Avon lady of sorts and a hip hoppin’ delivery boy (Dominic di’Tommaso or Vincent Jones Varga depending on which night you attend), leaves a lot to be desired. The lengthy and monotonous conversations of the sisters are made even less tolerable due to the complete lack of character development within the script: what you see is truly what you get. Relief arrives briefly in the characters of Fleur (May Lloyd) and Bob (Nicholas Papademetriou) who drive the scenes with animated and vivacious confidence until they too wear out their welcome. Lloyd can be commended for her complete commitment to character, and for imbuing some subtext into, what, on the surface may be regarded as an homage to Fran Drescher. Accompanying the stale script drenched in exposition are cumbersome American accents that fluctuate as they flirt with the occasional Australian diphthong. One wonders what compelled the contemporization of the script, without neutralizing the accent? A change of time, but not of place? In addition to this, this reviewer was also left wondering what is the genre? At times played as an intense familial drama, at others action is fractured by the appearance of farcical fancy as the staunch vegetarian is encased in a fur coat… Is this a black comedy? Is it a comedy? How am I to understand the tragedy of woman’s breakdown? Who am I to believe? According to the New York Times’ quote on the website “The audience went berserk with the humour of this play” and I sincerely wonder why.
Unfortunately there are no answers offered in John Pryce Jones’ design. What is, in essence, a beautiful and poetic design concept (an apartment made of/encased in bubble wrap) is completely confused by hyper-realistic 50’s décor and furniture of an ill-designed house which is accompanied by a painted cityscape (inspired by Elwood Middle High Art Class, New York) and strange naive art portraits of the family (inspired by Bedford Middle High Art Class, Connecticut)…
Nicholas Higgins’s lighting design is adequate for the most part, but highly under utilized until the final moments of the play we finally see a clever and evocative use of light…but to what end?
There is no shortage of talent in this production: the cast is accomplished and the crew experienced however, 3Some Productions’ And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little… is severely congested with too many ideas, too many issues, too many accents, too many design concepts, too much exposition and not enough rehearsal, leaving the whole experience anything but “faster, madder, harder.”
Darlinghurst Theatre Company and 3Some Productions present
AND MISS REARDON DRINKS A LITTLE
by Paul Zindel
Venue: Darlinghurst Theatre Company | 19 Greenknowe Avenue Potts Point
Dates: Thursday May 29 - Saturday June 21
Times: 8pm Tuesday to Saturday, 5pm Sundays
Tickets: Adult $30, Conc $25
Bookings: www.darlinghursttheatre.com or 02 8356 9987