Director: Jessica Lazar
Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty
Despite some pretty prose, and some fine acting, the coincidence at the core of Mark Crowley’s exploration of guild, abuse and penance means the whole 90 minutes is a hard pill to swallow.
Starting reasonably strong, the play meanders along with hints at its true direction until the sparks start flying in the final third. Two Americans meet in Rome, one is Conrad an older Catholic priest (Cory Peterson) and the other is Patrick, a debonaire Hollywood screenwriter (Simon Haines). They have lunch and the writer invites the priest to his room to continue the conversation. Flirting, both overt and covert, as well as some more obvious come-ons, follow, as well as some interesting exploration of past lives and what brings each man (physically, emotionally and spiritually) to this point in their lives.
Heavy hints are laid down when we find out that the priest felt he really needed to move cities away from the primary school he taught at (and give up teaching) and when Patrick reveals he was the victim of early childhood abuse. From here, the dancing around each other stops and it becomes a boxing match – both men circling, waiting for the other to strike before Patrick finally does and the play really takes off with a close-up look at the perfect revenge opportunity.
But the payoff never really comes. It feels like a mature, emotionally complex resolution is what’s aimed at, but with so many ideas weaving in and out, and such a build-up to the moment, it feels dampened. We’re too busy intellectualising and trying to understand why Patrick is acting like he does there’s no connection to what’s happening on stage – a flash of violence, a sneer, a grand moral moment and then some forgiveness after craven begging. The action doesn’t feel like it makes sense, and it’s hard to pin down motivations.
There’s so much talking through the course of a 90-minute performance, with a lot of style and backstory description we never get to really dwell in the moment in that hotel in Rome. The underlying lessons are striking, however. It was written in 1995, an era when homosexuality was a much different prospect than it is now and Crowley’s exploration of the two men’s attitude to this, and their experiences of life is interesting – but lost in the story too.
Both Peterson and Haines are credible and enjoyable to watch. The characters themselves are entertaining, and the two actors have a charisma and coolness that’s inviting – excellent characteristics in a frustrating play.
Juggling the story, and what feels like the core messages of the play (abuse, homosexuality, the confusion of revenge) is tough with the dense language used. It feels like a play to see as a philosophical exercise, rather than for enjoyment.
Runs until 25 August 2018 | Image: Alex Brenner