Review: ‘The Virgin Mim’

Tony McNamara's fourth play, a David Williamson-style middle-class dinner party drama, is sharp, funny and fast-paced without drawing attention to the fact. Scribe is of, and appeals to, a younger demo than Williamson, a fact no doubt relished by the Sydney Theater Co., a longstanding beneficiary of the elder statesman's box office appeal.

Tony McNamara’s fourth play, a David Williamson-style middle-class dinner party drama, is sharp, funny and fast-paced without drawing attention to the fact. Scribe is of, and appeals to, a younger demo than Williamson, a fact no doubt relished by the Sydney Theater Co., a longstanding beneficiary of the elder statesman’s box office appeal.

Play’s six friends get together for the return to Oz of Mim, a former carouser who has been born again and is living a monastic life in Ireland. Fueled by her newfound evangelism, Mim pressures each of her friends to question their shallow lives spent as, variously, a food stylist, attorney and computer game designers. She has mixed success, but triggers lots of action in the process.

McNamara’s characters are appealing, well drawn (except for a handful of jarring about-faces) and not too stereotypical. Play’s second act wanders and the tidily resolved finale seems overworked — both easily rectified.

McNamara has taken a break from post-production on his debut feature film as a helmer/scribe (“The Rage in Placid Lake” toplining Ben Lee, Miranda Richardson and Rose Byrne) to make his theatrical directing debut with the STC, one of Australia’s preeminent theater companies. Another of his scripts, “The Recruit,” was produced in June by the Melbourne Theater Co.

McNamara’s stage direction is less accomplished than his script. Casting is uneven — Jeremy Sims and Helen Thomson were inspired choices who work well individually and as a married couple. But Sophie Lee didn’t step up to the admittedly challenging role of Mim. Production is ably enhanced by Peter England’s immaculate set.

The Virgin Mim

Wharf Theater, Sydney; 324 seats; $28 (A$54)

Production

A Sydney Theater Co. presentation of a play in two acts written and directed by Tony McNamara.

Creative

Sets, Peter England; costumes, Jennifer Irwin; lighting, Mark Truebridge; music, Paul Healy. Opened Aug. 7, 2002; reviewed Aug. 8; runs through Sept. 29. Running time: 2 HOURS, 20 MIN.

Cast

Ed Harris - Jeremy Sims Steve Shetlebaum - Felix Williamson Kelly Harris - Helen Thomson Jeremy Swain - John Adam Evelyn Tighe - Jeanette Cronin Mim McDermott - Sophie Lee
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