Zebra! | Sydney Theatre Company

Zebra! | Sydney Theatre CompanyLeft - Nadine Garner and Colin Friels. Cover - Bryan Brown and Colin Friels. Photos - Brett Boardman

It’s snowing outside. The morning light drifts into the windows onto the worn floorboards of an Irish pub in the middle of New York. Sporting memorabilia clutter the service area of the pub – worn, leather baseball gloves, a basket baller’s shirt pinned under glass. There is a jukebox, and green leather bar stools. A patchwork of framed photos tile the walls. A man bursts in, he’s been in a car accident he’s bleeding and he heads straight to the pub’s bathroom.

It’s 2009. Ten o’clock in the morning. The Global Financial crisis has brought America to its knees – everyone is feeling the pain. Barkeeper Robinson (Nadine Garner) has resigned herself to file for bankruptcy – there, on the bar is the paperwork to prove it. Larry (Colin Friels) – immaculately dressed in a three piece suit with jackets draped over his busted right arm is there to meet his future son in law for the first time. Enter Jimmy (Bryan Brown) a man in his 50s who is the love of Larry’s 26 year old daughter’s life. A lot has lead them to this place, a lot of effort, a lot of honesty, dishonesty, love, bravery, money – everything. And here they are – two men so similar yet so different – both with an agenda. One feels he can buy anything he wants and certainly doesn’t want his daughter marrying a man two years his junior – the other, having survived the crash (literally and financially) is looking for a new lease on life.

Ross Mueller’s career spans less than 10 years and already he has had plays produced on mainstages in Australia, the UK and in America. For those who saw the precursor to Zebra!, the Griffin/STC co-production of Concussion (produced in 2009) would be familiar with his sense of humour and his penchant for surprising character detail. But don’t be fooled, Mueller has a significant level of sophistication in what he is writing and there is a heart amongst the witty quips. And at the heart of Zebra! is a question of what is the value of love? The wonderful sleight of hand with this script is this – that you may think that the story is speaking of one thing, but within the last twenty minutes, we see that despite all the masculine breast-beating, despite the status struggles and the wheeling and dealing – love – though just as fickle and transient and hard earned – is still more powerful than money.

Lighting designer Damien Cooper has excelled himself – beautiful, beautiful work evoking morning light through light snow to the harsh blast of a pub in full swing and everywhere in between working symbiotically with set designer David McKay – we are completely transported to an Irish pub in New York.

Lee Lewis’ production appropriately fluctuates between the hyperloudtalk of bolshie moneyed America and the laid back casual larrikinism of Australia. Colin Friels’ Larry is full of boundless energy – large and bursting with opinions and hyerbole and beautifully contrasted by Bryan Brown’s slow Australian drawl. Nadine Garner is the perfect pivot point – fierce, funny and with a unique and understated sadness. Lewis’ direction defty negotiates the difficult spaces between cultures, the multiple quick-talking tangents and the politics of money and love – and we are left believing that despite everything that happens with money, business or love – there are no losers. It is easy to see why this production has nearly sold out the entire season before it has barely begun.

Sydney Theatre Company and Investec Bank present
by Ross Mueller

Director Lee Lewis

Venue: Wharf 1 | Pier 4, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay NSW
Dates: 10 March – 30 April, 2011
Duration: 2 hours, no interval
Tickets: $30 - $77 (Transaction fees may apply)
Bookings: (02) 9250 1777 | www.sydneytheatre.com.au

Most read Sydney reviews

Poirot and More: A Retrospective | David Suchet

David Suchet's charm, modesty and gentle charisma come together to generate an unexpectedly...

The Life of Us | Hayes Theatre Co

Finely observed and rich with truth, it also has a score full of killer songs and knockout...

Family Values | Griffin Theatre

In Family Values, David Williamson softens us up with a string of rib tickling zingers, the...

The Spoils | Flight Path Theatre

Ben wants to be a victor, but being a self centred dickhead does prove a problem. Narcissistic,...

Pomona | Secret House

Pomona is a play about the commodification of the body, especially the bodies of women. More...

Sign up for our newsletter

* indicates required