An enthusiastic audience welcomed Bruce Hoogendoorn’s latest play to the Courtyard Theatre tonight. A simple but effective comedy, The Reluctant Shopper kept its audience engaged and the laughs rolling freely.
Faced with the grim news that consumers aren’t spending, the local business council has Barry blackmail one of the city’s more wealthy citizens, Sam, to spend his ill-gotten but sizable nest egg in their members’ businesses. In the course of this task, Barry manages to set Sam up with shopaholic Lisa, and the two find they have complementary interests: Lisa likes spending money, and Sam has a lot of money. Together they spend enough to turn around the fortunes of the council’s failing businesses.
In this play, Hoogendoorn has taken a rather foolish economic ploy and played it out for comic effect. The concept, while it may not stand up to the scrutiny of an economist, is the stuff of comic genius, and it is just silly enough to hold the attention for the hour the play’s one act runs. One of the more interesting moments is something like a filmic montage that works surprisingly well on stage.
The characters, however, warrant a little more depth. Barry in particular begins as a mere caricature of a businessman, but develops a moral compass on the journey, losing his comic intensity. This could work, but a paucity of motivation leaves the character seeming somewhat vapid when he stops being a caricature. The other characters in the play are decidedly flat and lack any subtext to give the audience something to work for.
The cast nonetheless is quite strong. Brendan Kelly, in the role of Sam, delivers most of the comic punch against Rob de Fries’ straight man, Barry. Kimberley Balaga is cast brilliantly to match Kelly in the role of Lisa, and her timing is impeccable. Elaine Noon is likewise well-cast in three roles, each of which she distinguishes well.
In all, The Reluctant Shopper is an amusing diversion, and well worth a visit for a warm laugh this winter.
Long Run Theatre presents
The Reluctant Shopper
by Bruce Hoogendoorn
Director Bruce Hoogendoorn
Venue: The Courtyard Theatre, Canberra Theatre Centre
Dates: 19 – 29 June, 2013
Tickets: $25 – $15.00