Wednesday 27 July 2016

A Very Modern Marriage - Theatre Review

What: A Very Modern Marriage
Where: The Owl and Cat Theatre
When: 26-29 July
Written by: Arthur M Jolly
Directed by: Gabrielle Savrone
Performed by: Tom Carty, Jayden Popik, and Ali Viterbi.

The latest offering at The Owl and Cat is an American comedy A Very Modern Marriage written by Los Angeles writer, Jolly. It has the flavour of sitcoms whilst dealing with the big issues of trust, marriage, and sexual orientation.

Jolly is a prolific writer, working across screen and stage and his writing in this play does show the screen influences very strongly. Generally speaking Jolly writes comedy and heightened realism and this play tends to fall into the later category although it is billed as a comedy. To me it felt more like a funny drama than a true comedy although the play is full of zingers and has many recognisable TV sitcom techniques and structures.

My hesitation to call it a true comedy is partly because much of the subject matter is very serious - broken relationships, economic inequality, deception, etc. It may also be a result of  Savrone's direction. Whilst Jolly writes heightened realism, this play has been directed as pure realism. This decision has tended to interfere with the comic timing and the farcical structures imbedded. The realism doesn't allow the jokes to be set up, it smooths out the clever step-by-step heightening built into the script, and doesn't allow the actors/characters to step out of their roles to acknowledge the audience as the pun structure invites them to do - especially the character of Christopher (Popik) who is the cliche quick quipping gay friend and sneaky husband stealer.

This is a play built on cliches. The humour lies there and so the play is funny regardless. It also holds some real shock and awe moments. One moment in particular, between Viterbi and Popik is absolutely breathtaking, shocking, and unexpected. (You may recognise Viterbi's name. She wrote Deadheads produced by The Owl and Cat earlier in the year.) In fact, Viterbi and Popik worked well together across the whole play.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this production was the design and use of space. The set had an awe inspiring level of detail without being overwhelming and Savrone has the actors using the space - all of it - inventively. The acting was precise and overall, I had a sense of complete confidence from the moment I walked in I was going to enjoy a good piece of theatre which showed respect to the play and the audience.

The ending of A Very Modern Marriage is somewhat trite, and it doesn't help that Carty's energy seemed to seep out of him at that point. Nevertheless it is a fun ride and there are moments in the show which are so perfectly crafted they will stick with me for a long time.

I laughed, I gasped, and I chuckled my way through A Very Modern Marriage. If you like what Red Stitch does you will really enjoy this show. Hurry though, it is only on this week.

4 stars.

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