Though not a musical, Master Class rightly deserves its place at The Hayes Theatre.
Terrence McNally's awesome aria to opera goddess, Maria Callas, has a beautiful rhythm in its writing, and is given magnificent voice in Maria Mercedes' magnetic performance.
An unadorned stage with a piano, a stool and a table sets the scene for a rehearsal room where Callas will instruct three “victims”, her joke definition of opera students, and we, the audience, become implicit as fellow students, also being instructed, informed and hectored.
Artists must focus, concentrate, display discipline and courage, empty themselves in the work. There is no other way.
Its about the look, the entrance, and the preparation, and Mercedes' performance is the embodiment of these virtues – she doesn’t just talk about them, she inhabits them, with her simple, elegant black outfit, beautifully groomed chignon and dramatic red lipstick. It's a consummate look, a consuming look, consumed by passion for art and life and love.
Imperious and volatile, Mercedes also shows the vulnerable when she launches into a melody of malady, internal dialogues between herself and Aristotle Onassis, the callous Callas conqueror who discarded her so cold bloodedly.
Ostensibly a one woman show, this towering virtuoso turn is given accompaniment by two female students, a young tenor and a musical accompanist on piano.
The pianist, Manny Weinstock is the butt of introductory banter and buffer between the diva and her “victims”, and delightfully played by Cameron Thomas.
Georgia Wilkinson delivers a lovely ingenue in the star struck Sophie De Palma and Teresa Duddy survives a dissing by the Diva in a dramatic display of determination.
Blake Bowden as the tight panted tenor, Tony Candalino, is terrific in his snippet from Tosca.
And kudos to Luke Holmes for his handling of the beleagured and belittled stagehand.
Master Class is truly a master class in performance and presentation, a lesson in excellence.
Left Bauer Productions in association with Hayes Theatre Co presents
by Terence McNally
Director Daniel Lammin
Venue: Hayes Theatre Co | 19 Greenknowe Ave Potts Point
Dates: 12 – 30 August 2015
Times: Tues to Sat 8pm; Sat 2pm; Sun 3pm & 7pm
Tickets: $48 – $30