Above: Maria Angelico, Simon Corfield and Anna Burgess.
Right: Maria Angelico and Matt Whitty
After party images by Deanne Scott follow the review.
By Joshua Harmon
Directed by Gary Abrahams
Aleksandar Vass and the Vass Theatre Group
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season: July 12-31. Bookings: www.qpac.com.au or 136 246 Running time 1 hour 40 minutes without interval.
This is a hilarious verbal stoush up there with Virginia Wolfe when, on the night after their grandfather's funeral, three cousins do battle over a treasured family heirloom with religious significance. Rarely have so many words been released at such a frantic pace and yet pronounced so clearly we never missed a word – even the very unreligious four-letter words from everyone.
It is a hundred minutes of sure-fire laughter in a very unusual production; one which managed to be hilarious and shocking and brutal at the same time.
There’s Daphna Feygenbaum, a "Real Jew" who is volatile, cocky and aggressive as a pit bull. Her equally stubborn cousin Liam, a “bad Jew” (one who has left the fold) is bent on marrying his shiksa (gentile) girlfriend, Melody, who is an inner-happy tree hugger who wants to spread love to the world. Liam has possession of the heirloom and is also hell bent on keeping it. Then there is Liam's brother, Jonah, a softy who tries to stay out of the fray.
They are crammed together in a small studio flat, which was cleverly designed by Jacob Batista.
Nobody seems to like anyone else, and Daphna is better than most at expressing her opinions, which in general are pretty venomous and aimed like poison darts. Poor Jonah has the listen to tirade after tirade until Liam turns up with the blonde and beautiful Melody.
This association is a anathema to Daphna, who is deep into orthodoxy and memories of the Holocaust. She sure knew how to pile on the suffering.
Maria Angelico was Daphna and somehow manages to get us to forgive her poison tongue and laugh with her – and her diatribes and physical actions did keep us laughing and gasping in turn as she gets more and more outrageous in her battle for the heirloom. It was an amazing performance.
Then, just when you start to feel sorry for Liam and Melody, the rich and privileged Liam gives Daphna a bit of her own medicine.
He can dish the dirt as well as she can and the pitched battles are nastily funny. I kept wondering if either of them would run out of insults, but they didn’t. Joshua Harmon’s script is a masterful piece of comic aggression and as Liam, Simon Corfield was every inch as fast talking and vicious as Daphna.
Matt Whitty was Jonah and I loved his long-suffering expressions. He was like a latter-day Stan Laurel and, like the silent movie star, had a brilliant slow burn and a bagful of visual comic tricks.
Finally Anna Burgess was the blonde and loveable Melody. She was a marvellous contrast the cousins. She too had lots of visual tricks and a flair for comedy. She rounded off the cast very nicely.
This show has been on tour since April this year and has acquired a great degree of polish. The cast have been working together for even longer on previous productions and, after talking to them after the show, realised they are almost as much family as the characters they pay – only much nicer.
The exec team with producer Aleksandar Vass (left) and artistic director Riochard Fitzgerald
The cast = Matt Whitty, Maria Angelico, Simon Corfield and Anna Burgess
Matt Whitty and Maria Angelico