The American Dream and its ramifications have provided generations of fine US playwrights with fodder. Blue Surge is another take on individuals pursuing happiness and prosperity, despite their backgrounds. This play is a classic, well-structured work by Pulitzer-winning playwright Rebecca Gilman, with scenes ending on hooks and questions, plot points that keep the story moving and dialogue that thrums with authenticity. The characters grow over the course of the drama and their circumstances and personalities are consistently realistic.
The Husk theatre space doesn’t allow for elaborate set design and the intimacy and claustrophobia, both literal and metaphorical, of the story’s setting, are underlined by how little room there is for the cast to move in. Space – personal, physical, and imaginary, form the theme of the work, well supported by the direction (by Paola Unger) with the requirements of set change unobtrusively woven into the business on stage.
The play opens with two policemen going undercover to arrest young prostitutes in a brothel. It is immediately clear that the characters are not clichéd hookers and cops; the tone of the play is established within even the short opening scenes. Generally the scenes are quite short (but not truncated); the brevity giving a familiar, almost cinematic rhythm to the drama.
The cast’s mid-western accents are credible, the tension and humour are balanced and the characters believable and well-rounded. Flawed but struggling, we see them attempting to do their best and not always succeeding. Those who have read Nickel and Dimed will have little problem believing in the class, caste, rather barriers, existing in the US; Blue Surge is no polemic, although idealistic Curt (Trent Baker, surpassing himself in this role) does indulge in a bout of anti-rich ranting, taken surprisingly calmly by his middle-class partner (Eloise Oxer), which sounds the death knell for their relationship. The relationships, particularly the one between policeman Curt and practical young sex worker Sandy are poignantly and sensitively realized. You do believe in how the characters are attracted to each other. Cassandra Magrath has fulfilled the adolescent promise of her Seachange days and is back on stage after a five year gap, with a confident and poised performance you cannot fault. Heather (Holly Shanahan) had me in a fit of giggles with her drunken sideshow and Doug (Justin Hosking) is solid and natural, even when stark naked with the audience rather too close for comfort.
Husk Theatre space is not yet widely known so Winterfall Theatre is still Melbourne’s best kept indie theatre secret. With a standard of scripts and quality of performances equal to (and occasionally even eclipsing) that coming out of Red Stitch. It is only a matter of time before Winterfall Theatre’s surprisingly located home on Heidelberg Road becomes a theatre lover’s regular destination.
Winterfall Theatre presents
by Rebecca Gilman
Directed by Paola Unger
Venue: The Theatre Husk | 161A Heidelberg Rd Northcote
Preview: Wednesday August 25 @ 7.30pm
Dates: August 26 - September 12, 2010 (no show Wednesday 1st September)
Times: Wed to Sat @ 7.30pm, Sun @ 6pm
Tickets: Previews $15 Concession $25 Full $30