Left – Anna Samson
Day One. A Hotel, Evening is a comedy of manners that uses wit and words to satirize, and comment on, middle-class middle-age infidelity. Joanna Murray-Smith has created what she describes as, ‘a fast, furious, fun romp.’ Husband, wife, and lover become confused, the narrative slowly unwinding to reveal the tangled relationships of its characters.
Murray-Smith’s decision to premier the play at Red Stitch, an independent actors theatre, is an important one. It is interesting to note the machinations – the drama and feuds – that have involved Murray-Smith’s name and production of her plays in Australia over the past fifteen years. Despite being one of Australia’s most produced playwrights, both here and overseas, Murray-Smith has faced much criticism for the subject matter of her plays; her stories of the middle-class. She contests that, ‘all writers should write about the kinds of people they understand.’ Though I am not sure this statement can be applied to all writers, she obviously understands whom she is writing about and for. Her decision to premier this work at Red Stitch, however, perhaps illustrates a desire to reach an audience outside of the mainstream.
The intimate atmosphere of Red Stitch and its small ensemble of excellent actors provide the perfect foundation for a play about intimacy. Each member of the cast (John Adam, Kate Cole, Ryan Hayward, Dion Mills, Anna Samson, Sarah Sutherland) under the direction of Gary Abrahams, seemed to revel in Murray-Smith’s quick wordy wit and fast paced dialogue. Mills, as Sam, a tightly wound property developer with a scalding turn-of-phrase, was, for me, the highlight. His critical outburst about his friend Stella’s (Sutherland) art made me laugh uncontrollably for its pungent insight.
The character of Ray (Hayward), however, seemed somewhat out-of-place. Ray's dubious profession is central to the narrative but the character sat uncomfortably within the story, seeming more daytime television drama than sophisticated satire. Hayward's performance was convincing enough, but constrained by the writing. Nevertheless, maybe, we all enjoy a bit of soap-opera.
Day One. A Hotel, Evening is a fun little play. Its success can be found in the very thing that made the audience laugh and clap spontaneously – the strange familiarity of its characters and their situation. Murray-Smith has a wonderful cutting honesty, her dialogue expressing what we may think, but are not brave enough to say.
Red Stitch presents
Day One. A Hotel, Evening
by Joanna Murray-Smith
Directed by Gary Abrahams
Venue: Red Stitch Actors Theatre | Rear 2 Chapel St, St Kilda
Dates: 18 November – 17 December, 2011
Times: Wednesday to Saturday, 8pm; Sundays 6.30pm
Matinees: Saturdays 4pm (excluding Saturday 19 November)
Tickets: $20.00 – $34.00 ($15.00 student rush)
Bookings: www.redstitch.net | 03 9533 8083