Couples is a light-hearted but truthful one act play about four straight married couples on a weekend of relationship therapy, conducted by doctors Edwin and Jessica (John Reisinger and Karina Byrne). At first it looks as though Couples will play on stereotypes but you come to see that, like life, there are more to these people than you first realise.
Playwright and director Phillip A Mayer (who plays Toorak businessman Karl) has intelligently restricted the characters to mainstream people who you’d expect to see at a weekend retreat like this in the first place; they’re familiar types – he has avoided tokenism. Mayer said afterwards that he actually put his cast through one of these couple therapy sessions and the work shines with authenticity, even while much of the dialogue is predictable. Needless to say, the men aren’t too happy about spending a weekend discussing their relationships. Karl (Mayer) and Brittany (Alice Krieger) insist they have the perfect relationship. The two of them have assumed traditional gender roles in their relationship which clearly work for them. Theirs is the happiest relationship, despite the bitchy attempts by lawyer Rachel to push them to admitting flaws. Also basically happy are Phoebe (Shelby Fisher) and Steven (Dani Capron), who both merely need to grow up a bit. Mark (Ash Kearns) and Rachel (co-director Julia Lambert) are locked into a dynamic which sees him passive-aggressively according her perceived superiority in the relationship. Lambert is very funny and dynamic as Rachel and you see these two becoming closer as the story develops. Less happy are Holly (Krissi Creighton) and Gary (Chris Knights) from Cranbourne; real darkness lies behind their story, Gary being the most troubled character (perhaps the least nuanced). Knights plays it well and made a point of distancing himself from his character afterwards!
Couples is a tightly written and performed semi-naturalistic comedy with hilarious moments, not theatre that revels in innovation or heightened language. People do express themselves in familiar tired ways and with a relatively large cast there isn’t room to explore thoroughly inconsistencies of individual personality or do more than present commonplace issues to real effect. The play doesn’t need to go any deeper for the dynamics between the characters to work well. It also avoids gender shaming or blaming and lets the individual stories of the relationship speak for themselves. Direction is precise and pacing terrific. Couples is much awarded and is enjoying successful seasons in one act play festivals all over Victoria. Nothing not to love here.
Here There & Everywhere Theatre Company presents COUPLES by Phillip A Mayer
Directed by Phillip A Mayer & Julia Lambert
Venue: La Mama Courthouse Dates: 30 – 31 Jan,2015 Tickets: $25 – $15 Bookings: 03 9347 6142