The Australian bow of James Mellon’s musical play is auspiciously timed, coinciding with the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras film and theater festival. While not a part of the fest, the increased interest in gay issues in the city at this time of year should ensure a well-attended six- to eight-week run for this first musical production from the Ensemble in eight years.
Billed as a “Big Chill for the ’90s,” the story is partly about a recently deceased character, Michael, who features prominently in flashback scenes. It is doubtful if the piece could sustain itself for more than two hours without this irritating, selfish, yet giving and loving character, played endearingly by Canadian theater and TV regular Fredric Kakish.
Michael’s lover, Worth (given a solid, if unsympathetic, perf by Oz musical regular Darryl Lovegrove) leaves him in New York for a law-firm partnership in Chicago. Michael’s infatuation with the emotionally cold young lawyer is difficult to fathom. On the other hand, we can sympathize with Beth (Beth Daly), Michael’s ex-lover-turned-best-friend, when she recalls her pain and incredulity at being left for a lawyer named Worth.
Cast manages to overcome a clumsy, uninspired and stilted opening 20 minutes to deliver the promised mix of hilarity and pathos. Backed by a witty, upbeat score, the actors portray a group of friends who entered midlife — and midlife crises — during the decade in which Michael and Worth’s relationship began and stalled.
Play’s theme of unresolved loves in unresolved lives provokes viewers to think about similar dalliances in their own lives. Kudos to the cast and directors Crispin Taylor and Ian McGrath for a simply staged and surprisingly effective production.