Alan Ball is famous as the writer of Six Feet Under, True Blood and American Beauty so you know already you're in the hands of a fearless master of dialogue and character, one who has almost single-handedly raised our expectations of television. He knows how to please an audience. Robert Chuter's production of Alan Ball's play All That I Will Ever Be is an amusing and entertaining production of a truly intelligent script, employing a large cast including some of Melbourne's finest actors, both older and younger.
Omar, the bi-sexual, racially ambigous gigolo is presented in a disturbingly seductive way by Francisco Lopez (although he doesn't look quite right as a hustler in LaLa town; never mind). Christian Heath is stunning as the insecure and lonely Dwight, stuck in traumatised adolescence; he is your classic example of a poor little rich boy.
Veteran Phil Roberts stands out as the older man whose hey days are behind him. Roberts brings a real patina to the gentle but hardened old queen. I am surprised that Chuter does use so many actors, since a few have only tiny parts. Some more doubling up suggests itself; Phil Roberts could easily have played Dwight's father, for example, although Sebastian Gunner was convincing in a cliched yet still moving scene. Sarah Roberts is a confident stand out, not only because she plays the only two woman in the play. The lounge room scene with Dwight's friends is natural and engaging, with Jackson Raine a warm presence. Again, nice for the actors that it has been possible to cast so many in one play but frustrating to see such strong performers underused. All in all, the cast is fine, production is stylish and apt, and the big screen works well as a backdrop with images doing double duty as set, home décor and occasional symbolism.
Amongst other things, Alan Ball has a go at the food chain that makes up LA's entertainment industry – he should know. Some of characters are familiar and the emptiness of their lives and cynicism of their encounters are well highlighted. The political issues, to do with xenophobia and racism and homophobia are dealt with amusingly and with honest enquiry. But the drama seems to be in service of the points Ball wants to make. The writing, fine, funny and well-intentioned as it is, seems to be all from the head; it is too smooth somehow. At times I found myself hopping out of the story, distracted by wondering about Lopez's actual ethnicity.
One problem here is that Lopez's Omar is so slippery that you never trust him so none of his encounters ring with authenticity; that is to say, the actor's great in the role but you don't know when the character is acting. Ultimately, All That I Will Ever Be left me cold. Despite its cleverness, its intelligence, its asking of tough questions about identity and intimacy, it is nearly all talk. The play itself, though engaging, lacks stageworthiness. Everything happens in dialogue and there is a stiltedness to the proceedings, to do with too even a pace – it's all too fluent and slick. We are not invited to really wonder what is going on underneath with the characters, except, of course, for Omar. I wasn't as moved by the ending as I wanted to be, despite a killer showdown.
Fly-On-The-Wall Theatre presents
ALL THAT I WILL EVER BE
by Alan Ball
Directed by Robert Chuter
Venue: Chapel Off Chapel | 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
Dates: 1 - 12 August, 2012
Times: Wednesday - Saturday @ 8.00pm, Sunday @ 6.30pm
Tickets: $29.00 – $23.00
Bookings: 03 8290 7000 | www.chapeloffchapel.com.au