REVIEW: The Woolgatherer at LA MAMA

Strangers meeting

By Myron My

A chance encounter between two unlikely people changes their lives forever…

The Woolgatherer

Set in Philadelphia in 1979, The Woolgatherer is about a neurotic woman called Rose (Laura Wheelwright) who has a slightly unhealthy obsession with death. Cliff’s (Lee Beckhurst) truck has broken down outside the five-n-dime where Rose works. Waiting for it to be repaired and looking for a one-night stand, he starts talking to Rose and the two return to her dilapidated and sparse apartment.

Once there, the two find themselves discussing an erratic range of subjects, including the finer points of poetry and the ability of plants to come back to life. Over the course of the evening, a few truths are unavoidably revealed and they are both forced to question what it is they are seeking, with each other and within themselves.

William Mastrosimone’s The Woolgatherer is an intense love story where there is just as much left unsaid as there is being said. It’s a strong character piece that needs much commitment, but tempered with a sense of rawness, and both Wheelwright and Beckhurst are convincingly able to bring to life these two lonely people. Their physicality and authentic accents further enhanced this but I was particularly impressed by Beckhurst’s ability to simultaneously show Cliff’s brutish barbaric side as well as his sensitive and sweet nature.

Director Kerry Armstrong has done a marvelous job with the two actors and having them dig deep and find the inner turmoil, morbidity, anxieties and desires of Rose and Cliff. There are some beautifully crafted moments early on, and the whole second act becomes a testament to this.

The Woolgatherer is the type of play that demands a lot from its director and its cast in order to be a success. Fortunately, Armstrong, Wheelwright and Beckhurst are all more than capable at ensuring this is the case.

The final performances of The Woolgatherer will be at 4:30pm and 7:30pm today (October 6) at La Mama as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. For bookings call 03 9347 6142

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