Two of Australia’s much loved playwrights, Brendan Cowell and Lally Katz have combined to blow a breath of fresh air into Belvoir St’s Downstairs Theatre with their two short romantic comedies, TheDog/The Cat.
The writing in both plays is polished, beguiling and very very funny. Ralph Myers directs them both with panache and they are performed with an assured charm by the trio of actors: Andrea Demetriades, Benedict Hardie and Xavier Samuel.
Both plays are about divorcing couples and the difficulties associated with having to deal with their pets after a breakup.
In the first play, The Dog, newly separated Ben (Samuel) and his dog Jerry move in with his old friend Marcus (Hardie). These “Odd Couple” housemates: drunken, shambolic and emotionally frayed script writer, Ben and uptight nerdy app developer, Marcus have taken on the joint custody of Jerry, taking turns to walk him in their local park. Like Buzo’s bus stop and Albee’s park bench, dog parks provide the perfect opportunity to befriend strangers. Here they meet Miracle, the clever and practical International Studies lecturer at the University of Sydney and vie for her attention.
In addition to Cowell’s full arsenal of dog jokes, no inner city hipster sacred cow is left unscathed. Craft beer, Birkenstocks, Capoeira, Screen Australia, app designers, Tinder – they all cop a gentle but hilarious mocking. The audience were not just laughing, they were snorting.
Cowell’s play is not without depth. Along with the blokey good humour, it is quite serious in its sensitive portrayal not only of the pain of loss, but also the ability of new friendships to both heal and inspire.
Lally Katz’s The Cat has the same director and actors. It is just as comic and touching as The Dog, but it is far more deliciously fanciful. In a clever touch, demonstrating they are companion pieces, Katz occasionally echoes phrases from Cowell’s play in hers. Like The Dog, the pain of separation is movingly expressed, but in this short play Katz deals not only with the difficulties of the divorcing couple, Alex and Albert, but also how a divorce can affect dependents. Alex and Albert decide to share custody of their cat on a week on, week off basis, with unexpected results. This play mixes the absurd with a little touch of Vegas. There’s singing, there’s dancing and a razzle dazzle ending that you will not expect.
The acting is uniformly excellent. Both Hardie and Samuel were wonderful playing unlikeable but such vulnerable comic characters in The Dog. Hardie is a terrifically entertaining comic actor and a wonderful foil to Demetriades’ and Samuel’s more realist delivery style. Hardie’s descriptions of his new app, uDoin, are particularly hilarious.
Costumes, set, sound and lighting design remain pared back, for the most part. Myers has designed a bare, black painted stage to allow the focus to remain entirely on the talents of his three superb actors and their delivery of Cowell’s and Katz’s fresh and funny new scripts.
The Dog / The Cat
The Dog by Brendan Cowell
The Cat by Lally Katz
Director Ralph Myers
Venue: Belvoir St Theatre | 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills
Dates: 18 June – 26 July 2015
Times: Tuesday 7pm | Wednesday to Friday 8.15pm | Saturday 2.15pm & 8.15pm | Sunday 5.15pm
Tickets: $48 – $38
Bookings: 02 9699 3444 | belvoir.com.au