The Scene


Theresa Rebeck

Directed by Peter Elliott

Silo at Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre. Until 27 Jun 2009

A sunken white square pit dominates the middle of the stage. Upstage, dramatically angular corrugated clear plastic sliding walls are lit pinkish red, appropriate colouring to introduce a story about 'the scene'; the surreal, emotionally violent, sexually charged world of thespians and producers.

The set/lighting design team of John Parker and Jeremy Fern combines intriguing visual aesthetics with functional class. Director Peter Elliot has worked up American playwright Theresa Rebeck's amusingly cynical story about four people, all quite detestable in their own way, though most of them get to display some redemptive qualities by the time the story is told.

Sophie Henderson is Clea, bright-eyed would-be starlet fresh in Noo Yawk from Ohio, radiating sex, blondeness, trouble; ostensible naivety and joyful passion thinly veiling her ruthless, conniving intent. The character is very much from the same drawer as her role in The Little Dog Laughed last year, and she plays it troublingly well.

Steven Lovatt is Charlie, a bitter out of work actor, desperately trying to forge and maintain some dignity in the infamously soulless industry. The problem with that is he's unwilling to suck up to the very odious people who might get his career back on track.

Edwin Wright is Charlie's wingman, the passive opportunist Lewis. A very funny performance of a likeably shallow man, he's keen on Clea for the predictable reason but, sadly for him his opportunism is summarily outclassed.

Josephine Davison is Stella, Charlie's executive-stressed motor mouth wife of fourteen years.She works hard, suffering the fools Charlie won't to maintain the quality of life to which they are accustomed and the resulting resentment is mutual; cue meltdown at the hands of Clea, the succubus.

Rebeck's script is punchy and insightful.Laying out the absurdity of the human condition adrift in the vacuum of the entertainment industry, the cast maximizes the potential of the text with believable, strong performances.

Ultimately, the males in this story are the underdogs - Charlie's long-suffering principles give him no more status than Lewis the sycophantic diplomat. Contrastingly, the women have the control; Clea through classic vampism, Stella through relentless organisation and righteous demands.

So The Scene is a story about the pretensions and emptiness of show biz, made into a theatre play, being a well-established medium of that same scene. As such it is produced, designed and performed by protagonists from our own version of said scene. Outside of America, audiences are privy to an extra layer of paradigm confusion: we are watching Kiwis pretending to be Americans despairing at the unreality - surreality? - of the industry...

I'm leaving off any political discussions about cultural voices and values and so on.In it's own right, the Silo's The Scene is solid work, entertaining in the moment and in retrospect surprisingly thought provoking, for the reasons mentioned already.

The accents aren't too bad at all either.

Reviewed by Nik Smythe, 31 May 2009