Tommy Murphy is back with a new work, “Saturn’s Return,” world-premiering at the Sydney Theater Company. The Australian boy wonder playwright’s two previous full-length dramas — “Strangers in Between” and “Holding the Man” — brought him a reputation as one of the most exciting emerging scribes Down Under. All three plays have been helmed by David Berthold in their debut seasons, but where Murphy’s previous gay-themed stories told powerful tales with clarity and punch, “Saturn’s Return” feels more like a concept in search of a story.
Play explores the emotional tumult twentysomethings experience as they near 30, which some folk say is astrologically-linked to Saturn’s orbit of the sun. Matt (Matt Zeremes) and Zara (Leeanna Walsman) have hit relationship stasis; sex on drugs is no longer enough and they’re searching for a third person to join them in bed, or are they?
They also have thoughts of mortgages and having children — thoughts they find scary but not wholly unwelcome intrusions into their otherwise hedonistic lives. The play begins strongly but loses steam, drifting into pointlessness despite strong perfs and designer Adam Gardnir’s inventive staging.
Self-referential dialogue, especially in the second half, goes on and on without either advancing the drama or unearthing character insights. It’s difficult to care about people who are so self-obsessed and boring.
Production is one of a half-dozen in the Sydney Theater Company’s Wharf 2Loud experimental strand programmed by new co-artistic directors Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton.
Murphy was the recipient of an STC Young Playwrights’ Award as a teenager and has garnered a further string of prizes since. STC has tapped “Saturn’s Return” for a repeat season in July 2009 on the mainstage — which should allow plenty of time to overhaul the script.