Old Fitz Theatre, September 18


At one point the playwright appears on a screen admonishing the screenwriting characters to stay well away from the story they are attempting to pen. It would be easy to say they should have heeded this advice, but there’s the slightest hint of the charm of Luigi Pirandello at work, even if it’s not enough to save the play.

May Tran, on-screen guest Shari Sebens, Rachel Seeto and Kurt Pimblett. Photos: Phil Erbacher.

Mythology obsessed, the piece centres on Harold Lasseter, who supposedly discovered a major gold deposit near Alice Springs over a century ago. It begins with Lasseter, played by Kurt Pimblett, delivering a long (and compelling) monologue, before Ho cuts to the modern day, when five writers, working for a new streaming service, are ineffectually brainstorming how to tell Lasseter’s tale, with a deadline rushing at them like a black train on a blacker night.

So far, we’re following it, even if the lampooning of the inept and fallow writing sessions misses much of the humour on offer. In Act Two, however, all bets of following a narrative are off. It becomes an oneiric, satirized melodrama about Lasseter’s family awaiting the gold-digger’s return, with the actors still occasionally voicing thoughts of their scriptwriting characters, as if the latter have gone loopy in their desperation to write the series. Sequences are mysteriously repeated, and characters comment on being trapped in the play or ask each other to stop speaking in riddles. Meanwhile, the production becomes more dreamlike, with reverb-treated voices, heroically over-the-top music and other oddities, as though someone dropped LSD before tearing into the second half.

Lucinda Howes. Photos: Phil Erbacher.

Personally, I rather like being lost, whether in real life or when engaging with bizarre comedy dramas. But, as clever, well-written and amusing as this sometimes is, it flits between ideas without ever properly landing on them, so you can’t immerse yourself in it, you only intermittently connect with it, and the play certainly never sinks its claws into you or envelops you in its tentacles.

The adventurous Saro Lusty-Cavallari has directed it for Red Line Productions. Actors Lucinda Howes, Rachel Seeto, Idam Sondhi, May Tran and Pimblett play it with complete commitment, even if they must have sometimes wondered what they’d got themselves into. Now, like their characters, they’re trapped in the play for the season.

Until October 8.