Three things are certain: death, taxes and a new David Williamson play annually foisted onto Australia’s theatergoing public.
Occasionally they fly: 2001’s expose of the art world, “Up for Grabs,” is in rehearsals to open at London’s Wyndhams Theater, toplining Madonna.
“Soulmates,” a thinly veiled attack on the allegedly highbrow critics who’ve savaged Williamson’s plays over the years — probably won’t.
Despite the trademark fast pace, snappy dialogue and a generous injection of humor, Williamson’s tale of two novelists — one literary, the other popular — plays to an in-crowd of fiftysomething, ex-idealistic hippies who are now grazing comfortably on a paddock of middle class. They get the gags about the differences between Melbourne and Sydney and can laugh knowingly at the dinner party host who proffers “St Hilary Chardonnay. Two gold, three silver.” As though wine show medals indicate a quality drop.
Williamson’s alter ego is popular novelist Katie Best, an expat Australian living the high life in Manhattan. Played seamlessly by Amanda Muggleton, Katie’s seething after reading a review of her latest blockbuster by an earnest critic at Melbourne’s The Age newspaper. Danny O’Loughlin has denigrated her novel as ” ‘Days of Our Lives’ in print,” and decreed Katie “a very minor talent.”
So follows her attempt to even the score and publicly expose the lofty reviewer’s ill-conceived prejudices.
Williamson’s characters are an ensemble of navel-gazing, educated married couples — and an uncommitted paramour — each grappling with their place in the world and the meaning of it all. They don’t resonate as characters but exist as theatrical devices through which the playwright explores his chosen theme, again.
Brian Thomson’s set design, though clever, is too reminiscent of last year’s STC production of “Up for Grabs.” Gale Edwards direction and casting is assured.