The warmth of John Kolvenbach's play Love Song is brought to the fore in Centrepiece's production, which opened at The Q in Queanbeyan tonight. This play brings a vibrancy to themes that can be cold and stark, drawing humour and humanity into some otherwise dark places.
Love Song is the story of Beane, a man isolated by his difficulty with social situations. His sister, Joan, is a workaholic, and not without her own anti-social inclinations, but she is earnestly protective of her vulnerable brother. When Beane comes home to find a burglar attempting to find his valuables from amongst his meagre belongings, he is quickly taken by her insightful analysis of his few possessions and her charms quickly transform him. As her effect begins to make Beane more and more outgoing, his sister and her husband becoming increasingly uneasy.
A great risk in Kolvenbach's script lies in Beane's quietness at the opening of the play. Joan, played with an obnoxious charm by the accomplished Jenna Roberts, commands our focus along with her husband, Harry, played by Jim Amamik who counterbalances Roberts' obnoxious charm with a wonderfully dry wit. As a result of the great energy developed by this pair, Tim Sekuless must work very hard to even maintain a presence in his first few scenes as Beane, which he manages admirably. Of course, he only really comes to life with the arrival of Molly, the philosophical burglar played by Sophie Benassi. Just as Harry counterbalances Joan, so too are their amusing idiosyncrasies as a couple counterbalanced by the more intense interactions of Beane and Molly.
This really is a play of contrasts. The humour of Harry and Joan's relationship throws into stark contrast the sadness of Beane's life, and his mental health. It is the unidentifiable nature of Beane's mental state that makes this play so strong. No label or diagnosis is necessary, and for him to be diagnosed with a 'condition', as his sister seems to be angling for early in the play, would certainly undermine the warmth of this story.
The best stories are always those that bring us in touch with those aspects of the human condition that are otherwise difficult to get at. Academics in the field of psychiatry could spend tens of thousands of words trying to describe Beane's condition, and still fall short. In Love Song, Kolvenbach and the cast and crew of this production present a clear image of a person that would be far more difficult to understand if we encountered him in real life, and presents him with a warmth and depth of humanity that really outshines anything possible in mere psychiatry. This is what theatre is for. This is why theatre is necessary and essential.
It is encouraging to see Centrepiece return to Canberra's theatrical life this year, and I hope they'll bring us more productions of this calibre.
Centrepiece Theatre presents
by John Kolvenbach
Directed by Jordan Best
Venue: Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre
Dates: 5 – 15 October 2011
Tickets: $42.00 – $25.00