Excellent performances in eccentric new play
By Ross Larkin
Australian playwright Lally Katz is known for her offbeat, droll creations, and her latest effort, Timeshare, will no doubt please die-hard fans, though it is, as expected, an acquired taste which will not appeal to all.
Iconic comedienne Marg Downey plays Sandy, who is holidaying on a fictitious island resort positioned on the international dateline. Her lonely daughter Kristy (played by Brigid Gallacher) is vacationing with her, and looking for love with the likes of resort worker Juan-Fernando (Fayssal Bazzi). Meanwhile, resort manager Carl (Bert LaBonte), is trying to sell timeshare packages to Sandy, while she becomes convinced Carl is romantically interested.
Touted primarily as a comedy, Timeshare unfolds more like a drama with the laughs thin on the ground. Downey is disappointingly responsible for virtually none of the laughter in, what is, a very sombre and vacant part. Naturally, however, Downey still delivers, although one might argue hers is more a support role than a lead. The rest of the cast also deliver – all equally as engaging and impressive in their performances.
The first half of the script is somewhat meandering and slow, with seemingly little purpose. Fortunately, the pace and stakes later pick up when the action is shifted to ‘yesterday’s’ side of the date line and the confusion which ensues reveals the sad truth of the situation.
Timeshare unexpectedly features singing and dancing throughout, enough to consider it a musical hybrid, though Katz insists it’s a play with musical numbers, as opposed to a musical. The songs by Jethro Woodward are appealing and often beautifully sung (in particular by LaBonte and Gallacher), but there are times when they seem ill-fitting with the story and characters, and the dancing especially is so self-aware and corny that it detracts from the show’s credibility.
There are some lovely metaphors which emerge here, and New York director Oliver Butler does mostly a fine job with this offbeat, peculiar piece, save for some of the more over-the-top, caricature moments. LaBonte’s solo singing finale about pools and chlorine for example, which, although performed incredibly well, felt like an inappropriate ending that seemed to make a mockery of the journey we’d just been on.
Timeshare is playing now at The Malthouse Theatre, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank until May 17. For bookings, visit http://malthousetheatre.com.au/whats-on/timeshare