Presented by Burnside Players at the Burnside Ballroom.
Wednesday the 28th of September to Saturday the 1st of October at 8pm.
Adults $20. Bookings 0468 548 828 or just show up at the door.
What’s the Story?
A sitting-room comedy set in the 1970’s. Every night, the family sits down to the Cocktail Hour – a time when they drink and talk about the day. The son of the family has written a play which, like many of his others, deals with his well-to-do upbringing and poking fun at his family – especially his father. Over the course of the night, and many drinks, we examine the dynamics of the family and what they all really think of each other.
What’s the Problem?
This isn’t really a problem, per se, but it’s something to be mindful of. The play that the son has written is about the closest thing to a plot, and even that is solved by midway through the second act. Most of the play is an examination of the changes in American culture that happened as families stopped going to the theatre and started going to the movies instead, or how people find ways to cope, or how the person who seemed most content was in reality just as upset as everyone else but was better at hiding it.
Like so many shows, it’s a character piece rather than a plot piece, and all of the characters are well-constructed. They’re not clichés at all, which is nice. They could easily have slipped into caricatures of the Writer, the Grumpy Father, the Loyal Daughter, but they don’t.
They also don’t have Big Secrets that have to be Dramatically Revealed. They have ordinary problems that are part of ordinary lives. They’re each just trying to get along with the others without truly understanding who the other person is – like real life. There’s no Deus Ex Machina monologues about their childhoods that reveal their True Selves. There’s just hints and glimpses that nothing is as simple or clear as it first appears.
Play Within a Play
The play that the son wrote is called “The Cocktail Hour”. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, but it does make one wonder how much of this play is fact disguised as fiction. And whether the son is just the author in disguise, walking onto the stage, speaking directly to the audience.
There’s also something about stories whose main characters are authors that I don’t like. I suppose that’s what they know, so writing about it makes sense, but there’s thousands of jobs out there and we seem to keep seeing authors or wannabe authors in stories because that’s what the writer knows. There’s just a disproportionate number of authors as characters in stories, and it feels to me like lazy writing; like the author couldn’t bother researching a job for his main character so he just wrote another author.
That isn’t quite the case here, because the son’s being an author is central to the plot. Hell, it is the plot. But I just thought I’d have a rant because there’s
Not Enough Problems
for me to write about. Those that come here often will know I’m more of a plot-centric guy, so these character pieces don’t usually do much for me, but this one does what it does really well. There’s no character who is annoying, they don’t fall into stereotype, and the subject matter is upper-middle-class/upper-class Americans, which doesn’t usually happen. Their problems are not that they don’t have enough money for the next meal or that the mill just sacked them; it’s that their lives are being aired on the public stage and they’re worried what people might find.
What’s the Solution?
Dunno. I might have evened out the lines a bit more if I’d been writing it; the son is onstage 90% of the time, it seems, where the play could have been about the family as a whole rather than just how the son relates to them. It’d make sense to show it all from the son’s point of view if it were a novel, but as a play we could have seen the family dynamic more than just the son-and-father or son-and-sister or son-and-mother dynamics.
Yeah. They get a bit hilariously drunk in the second act, the Harvey Wallbanger they serve at the bar (there’s a bar; drinks are cheap) is delicious, and you get to dress up 70’s cocktail style and go to the theatre like a sophisticated person.