Tag: Luke Ryan

MTC Presents STRAIGHT WHITE MEN

Four blokes and one family Christmas

By Myron My

Upon entering Fairfax Studio at the Arts Centre Melbourne, you can’t help but notice Candy Bowers as the Stagehand-in-Charge sitting up in her booth, playing some hip hop music, including Khia’s racy “My Neck, My Back”. As the music plays, she regularly glances over the audience while flicking through a newspaper, the back page emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter”. Considering we are about to see Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men, a play about a family of the four eponymous men getting together for Christmas celebrations, the ruthless satire is punching us in the face, especially as she makes her way down to the stage and introduces us to the make-believe world.

Straight White Men.jpg

The “brotherly” chemistry between Hamish Michael, Luke Ryan and Gareth Reeves, as siblings Drew, Jake and Matt respectively, is undeniable. Their scenes together have a believable authenticity and you do feel like they have known each other for their entire lives. Michael in particular is a highlight as the youngest sibling, trying to help his family while trying not to be seen as the baby of said family. Ryan also impresses with his alpha-male banker who would prefer that the status quo under which he is comfortably living is not ruffled. Reeves as the oldest sibling offers an accomplished performance as a white man struggling to find his place in society and to not be seen as living off his privilege. Despite the other characters being louder and more animated than Reeves’, he manages to have a quiet but strong presence on stage. John Gaden as patriarch Ed, brings a nurturing and fragile depth to the man who only wants the best for his children.

The set and costume design is another impressive feat by Eugyeene Teh. While this is a little more conservative than what I’ve previously seen in his work (and this is due to the script itself), he captures the mood perfectly and once again is able to make the environment just as much of a character in the story as the four men on stage. Along with Lisa Mibus‘ intelligent lighting and David Heinrich‘s sleek sound design, all the elements come together seamlessly for Straight White Men.

While I enjoyed the show, especially the stellar performances from the cast, I feel Lee’s script ultimately lacked a deeper exploration of what these men are actually arguing about and the privilege they have, to really leave a mark. There are some extremely funny scenes and some that capture realistic sibling relationships, but the overall story seems to become preoccupied with this humour at the expense of the more powerful issues. It is clear Lee knows what she wants to say but possibly not how she wants to say it.

Straight White Men is an enjoyable performance, but this play ends up more a family Christmas dramedy than an intended piece of satire that will have people – mainly straight white men – questioning their privilege and perceiving how lucky they are.

Venue: Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, 3004
Season: Until 18 June | Mon – Tues 6.30pm, Wed 1pm, Wed-Fri 8pm, Sat 4pm and 8.30pm
Tickets: $39 – 77
Bookings: MTC

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Review: MTC’s Production of CLYBOURNE PARK

A funny, confronting and fascinating look at life over the fence…

By Diana Tarr

MTC’s latest production Clybourne Park, the Pulitzer prize-winning play by Bruce Norris, is a frank and honest depiction of the racial tension in northern American cities in the 1950’s and raises the question of what, if anything, has changed in our attitudes in the subsequent years.

In 1959, in the affluent Chicago suburb of Clybourne Park, a white couple is forced to consider the impact that selling their home to a black family will have on the neighbours they are leaving behind.  Fast-forward fifty years, and a young white couple tries to go forward with their plans to demolish the same, though now sadly decrepit, house and rebuild – with considerable resistance from their soon-to-be (black) neighbours.

The set, designed by Christina Smith, included just the right details to send me straight back to the homes and neighbourhoods of my childhood in suburban Detroit: the built-in bookcases, the string dangling from the basement light, even the sound of footsteps on the carpeted stairs.

Each of the superb cast (including Patrick Brammall, Bert LaBonte, Zahra Newman, Luke Ryan and Alison Whyte). portrayed at least two unique characters, though Greg Stone and Laura Gordon produced the most convincing and dramatic transformations in mannerisms, voice and characterisations for the second act. As grieving father Russ and then forthright tradie Dan, Stone gave the stand-out performance of the night, inspiring incredulous belly laughs and shocked silences from an audience that was eating out of his hands from his first bite of Neapolitan ice cream.

There is so much of the familiar in Clybourne Park, which is at times comforting but also self-convicting: not only in acknowledging the awkward relationships and social niceties, but particularly in recognising the people with good intentions who either don’t realise or don’t want to acknowledge how much they misunderstand about the experiences of others.

By the end of the first act, I was mentally kicking myself for even considering that perhaps a few of the arguments for keeping the neighbourhood unchanged might just have a certain logic to them. By the end of the second, I was cringing by how much I recognised myself in the comments and ideals of the yuppie wife, Lindsey (Gordon). But although Clybourne Park acknowledges these feelings of confusion and guilt, it does not seem to try to invoke them – just poke fun at them.

And oh my, what fun it was!

 

Clybourne Park: The Black and White Picket Fence

17 September – 26 October

The MTC Theatre, Sumner

140 Southbank Blvd, Southbank

Tickets: $30 (29 & under); $86-$97 (full)