Review: Other Desert Cities – Queensland Theatre Company at QPAC Playhouse

Image: Rebecca Davis, Robert Coleby, Janet Andrewartha

As much as I love the vivid experimentation – the sheer theatricalism – of some of the recent plays I’ve seen on Brisbane stages, I must confess to being a sucker for an unadorned production of a good piece of American realism. QTC’s latest offering is Jon Robin Baitz‘s Other Desert Cities, a 2012 Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony award-winner after its transfer from an off-Broadway start in 2011.

Mr Baitz’s play is finely wrought; the threads he spins in act one are woven tightly in act two and deliver some surprises of their own – a nice touch in a tale about family secrets and lies – a recurring motif in modern American drama. The coda at the play’s end is a little overly sentimental for my taste but probably essential given the narrative set up that’s gone before. The author creates his plot with great characters, by the way. The five roles are juicy, naturalistic and beg for bravura turns coupled with the finesse of ensemble playing.

Other Desert Cities is classically old-fashioned in so many ways; it even sticks to the unities for heaven’s sake!  In this co-production with Black Swan State Theatre Company and QTC, director Kate Cherry casts well and delivers a finely-observed, well-orchestrated, conservative production true to the play’s aesthetic values. Continue reading Review: Other Desert Cities – Queensland Theatre Company at QPAC Playhouse

Review: Managing Carmen – Queensland Theatre Company at QPAC Playhouse

Opening nights can be times of high anticipation or high anxiety depending on which side of the stage you happen to be. They are never dull and are usually also suffused with excitement especially if it’s a world-premiere and, in Australia, if it’s a new David Williamson play.

So it was on Thursday at the Playhouse in Brisbane for Managing Carmen which we all knew well in advance from the marketing is a play about a champion AFL football player who likes dressing up in frocks. Cue dozens of blokey jokes …

The fact that Williamson has written a sweet and clever morality tale with tolerance at its heart is a measure  of how the big man of Australian drama can catch a moment in that fabled zeitgeist out there and spin it into a yarn that’s funny and true. He’s done that throughout his career, been labelled at one time as ‘the Chekhov of Australian drama’ for the way he lines up aspects of Australian culture and its middle-class foibles and then pokes mullock. The comparison, like all such, are odious. He’s Williamson and critics have had their way with him over the years. Like his work or not, consider it trite or profound, berate him for the lack of epics or large-scale social criticism in his astonishing output, Williamson’s work is something to celebrate. His latest is a gem to treasure. Continue reading Review: Managing Carmen – Queensland Theatre Company at QPAC Playhouse