Becky ShawLeft - Kate Atkinson. Cover - Kate Atkinson and Alex Papps. Photos - Chris Parker

What is the most horrifying thing that can happen on a blind date?

Okay, so you have a horrific image in mind, now treble it. Writer Gina Gionfriddo has imagined a comedy of manners, morals and domestic life surrounding a catastrophe such as this, and it’s almost fabulous.

Becky Shaw (Kate Atkinson) is desperate and dateless, clingy and intense, creative and intelligent, lost and almost found. Gionfriddo’s play was an off Broadway sensation and the writer has earned numerous industry accolades for her writing. Becky Shaw, for this writer at least, has a distinctive Ally McBeal and Brothers and Sisters televisual feel to it. Maybe this is because the playwright also writes for television, including series like Law & Order, Criminal Intent and Cold Case. And just like the growing trend for female television characters; complex, extraordinary and labyrinthine souls constantly shape shifting with varying degrees of ease, Gionfriddo conceives Becky Shaw as a changeling too.

Becky Shaw is always adapting, largely through the care and love of her closest and most trusted relationships. And as she adapts, albeit awkwardly to her surrounds, somehow she manages to internalize the prismatic effects of her mundane and at times melodramatic suburban lifestyle. And as these episodes transpire, we derive some decent belly laughs along the way.

It is after a blind date goes horribly wrong that we learn more about her secret life. At the time of the play, Shaw is a fragile woman who, to the outside world appears almost unappealing and far too intense, however this belies a more complex and compassionate reading, Becky Shaw is at the brink of metamorphosis. With all the mystery the play contains about her dysfunctional family life aside, it is through the nurturing friendship she has with her work colleague Andrew Porter (Alex Papps) and his psychologist wife Suzanna Slater (Amanda Levy) that Becky is able to reveal deep dark secrets that have long since troubled her psyche. Troubles which we learn have also prevented her from developing satisfying relationships, and most particularly enduring romantic liaisons.

Max Garrett (Daniel Frederickson) is the guy matched up with Becky Shaw, and he seems like a great catch, not because of his mathematical acumen, wealth, status and worldy aspirations but because he is a good person, who like Becky Shaw, is also profoundly, though not irrevocably, flawed.

Presiding above at the apex of this trouble is an ailing matriarch Susan Slater (Judith Roberts), who despite her own shortcomings and failures offers each character some hilarious and quite radical sprigs of wisdom.

This is the Australian Premiere of Becky Shaw and also the first independent production staged at MTC’s Ray Lawler Studio, and it’s largely a fabulously engaging and alluring ensemble work that stumbles at times with the rocky outcrops of pop psychology embedded in the script.

by Gina Gionfriddo

Venue: Lawler Studio, MTC Theatre 140 Southbank Blvd, Southbank
Dates: Wednesday 27 October – Sunday 14 November, 2010
Times: Wednesday - Friday 7.30pm, Saturday 3pm & 8pm, Sunday 5pm
Tickets: $30.00 - $40.00
Bookings: The MTC Theatre Box Office (03) 8688 0800 | or Ticketmaster 136 100 |

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