Sexual preference is fluid, Christianity is a political force and coveting a role on a reality TV show is a legitimate pursuit in Stephen Carleton's "The Narcissist," set in a true-to-life feeling Brisbane circa 2007.

Sexual preference is fluid, Christianity is a political force and coveting a role on a reality TV show is a legitimate pursuit in Stephen Carleton’s “The Narcissist,” set in a true-to-life feeling Brisbane circa 2007. This well-conceived riff on the cult of personality was tapped for a Sydney Theater Company season after its sell-out premiere stint at Brisbane’s second-biggest not-for-profit legit outfit, La Boite Theater Company.

Play is a thought-provoking peek at contemporary narcissism, revolving around protagonist Xavier (Sandro Colarelli), a hedonistic, unattached gay political adviser whose unchecked cynicism colors a work life and private life that have morphed into one.Xavier and his best friend Bronwyn (Andrea Moor) decide to compete to see which one can find a good man before New Year’s Eve. Their contest becomes the catalyst for a series of adventures that test their friendship and reveal their vapid morals.

Ex-boyfriend Jesse (James Stewart) re-enters Xavier’s life: He might be a possible partner but for his fledging legal career and upright Christian fiancee Y’landah (Judy Hainsworth).

Bronwyn attempts to seduce Xavier’s flatmate Satchel (Jonathan Brand) because, well, he’s in the vicinity. But Satchel is preoccupied with breaking out of his barista career by becoming a contestant on “Big Brother.”

When Xavier realizes Jesse is no longer available, he deceives him into believing Satchel is his boyfriend, which creates a very tangled chamber comedy web.

The high-camp style, hammy perfs and unsubtle design unnecessarily ram home the themes of “The Narcissist.” The piece might have more impact if the badly dressed characters were more attractive. But the fact they all look so abhorrent leaves the audience with no doubt that this is a farce about some very shallow people.

Scribe has commendably updated the original script’s many references to the big-picture politico landscape following the election of a new Labor prime minister since the play’s debut last year. Despite the shift from a conservative federal government to a more liberal one, the story still works — which indicates the comedy could be tweaked further to play abroad.

The Narcissist

Sydney Opera House Drama Theater, Sydney; 544 seats; A$77 $62 top

Production

A Sydney Theater Company presentation of La Boite Theater Company production of a play in two acts by Stephen Carleton. Directed by Ian Lawson.

Creative

Set, Greg Clarke; lighting, Carolyn Emerson; sound, Guy Webster; dramaturg, Ian Lawson; production stage manager, Anika Vilee. Opened Sept. 2, 2008. Reviewed Sept. 8. Running time: 2 HOURS, 20 MIN.

Cast

Satchel - Jonathan Brand Xavier - Sandro Colarelli Y'landah - Judy Hainsworth Bronwyn - Andrea Moor Jesse - James Stewart

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