Review - Straight White Men: shades of Seinfeld and Frasier
The cast celebrate a great opening night. Photo: Deanne Scott. More after party photos follow review
Pajama party, Photo: Kate Pardy.
Straight White Men
By Young Jean Lee
Directed by Nescha Jelk
La Boite and State Theatre Company production
Kelvin Grove Brisbane
Season: July 27-August 13. Running time 85 minutes without interval. Bookings: www.laboite.com.au or (07) 30078600 9 am-5 pm Mon-Fri.
If you enjoyed the American TV shows like Frasier and Seinfeld, then this one will suit you down to the ground. It felt like a sitcom, has great characters, terrific dialogue, is brilliantly acted, and under Nescha Jelk’s direction played strictly for laughs – and I laughed a lot. It has no plot as such but is an examination of a way of life and posed no earth shattering moments.
But first a complaint: the music that was being played as we entered the theatre was loud rap. I have nothing against rap. But the volume of the sound was excruciatingly, head-achingly loud. The life of me I couldn’t see what it added to the production except pain.
Luckily the music died when the play opened and we met the delightful Merlyn Tong, who introduced herself as Stagehand in Charge and proved to be a great foil for the four guys throughout the action.
It is Christmas Eve and our four straight white males – that’s Ed, the father and his three sons, Matt, Jake and Drew, all partnerless for one reason or another, are gathered for the festivities.
Here Young Jean Lee’s keen observation of the human race is evident. Jake, played by Chris Pitman, was playing a computer game and the youngest son Drew, again a terrific interpretation by Lucas Stibbard, was attempting to distract him in what is obviously a traditional family game. It was pure family fun. I had a similar annoying little brother at one time too, so I fully understood the tomfoolery!
Then we saw Ed, played with a lot of sympathy by Roger Newcombe, and Matt plated by Hugh Parker. Parker is a fine actor who we see a lot on stage in Brisbane, but he has the knack of getting into the skin of the character and is completely different, even physically it seems, with each role he performs.
Ed is nicely fatherly, and insists in maintaining long held traditions - even to Christmas pyjamas, while Matt, who lives with the old man, seems distracted. The family exchange banter, have childish wrestling matches and enjoy each other in a close family way.
Then Matt breaks down while they are eating a Chinese takeaway Christmas eve dinner and cries.
That’s it; everyone wants to know why, including the audience and we are taken on a funny and sometimes emotional family ride. It is a very funny ride with great musical sight gags and word games. There are no truly big questions asked – and no answers given to those that were asked. There was no explanation for Matt’s apparent lack of purpose in life or his depression, despite some hilarious interrogations from his family, so in some ways it left people dissatisfied.
But I enjoyed it and loved the interaction between the actors who were individually brilliant and magic in their teamwork. I also enjoyed the characters and the dialogue But then I enjoyed Seinfeld and Frasier too.
Absolutetheatre reviewer Nahima Kern Hugh Marshall and Pacharo Mzembe
Nahima Kern, Muriel Watson, Merlin Tong and and Roger Newcombe
Left: Lucas Stibbard and Roge Newcombe . Above: Talking points with Eric Scott, Nescha Jelk and Merlin Tong