Suburbia. Two neighbouring gardens: one smart (so we’re told), one tatty and unkempt. Patio doors that won’t slide properly and garden furniture and half-laid decking that are going to cause someone an injury. Two barbecues that reflect the different financial and social status of two neigbouring couples. That’s when neighbours become good friends.
Sounds like Alan Ayckbourn territory, doesn’t it? Except we’re in Detroit. Except we’re not: we’re in “a ‘first-ring’ suburb of a mid-sized American city’.
For some reason Ben would rather be English. Perhaps D’Amour does want to be Ayckbourn after all? Ben has lost his job and when he’s not fiddling around building a website to support his new business idea he lights the barbie.
Phil was having a field day. There was so much food on stage and apparent cooking going on it was hard to concentrate* on the play. How did the barbecue work? Raw steaks went in and the lid was closed; cooked steaks came out and were eaten. Phil thought he saw a lever pulled. Was it a specially designed stage device to effect this sleight of barbie? Very clever.
But there was even more than stage trickery to impress the casual Cottesloe visitor.
On top of that it also pulled off a couple of coups de theatre (make that three if you count the steaks, which we do). The first was that almost impossible stage trick of having an over-extended party (in this case with only four characters) which Austin Pendleton directs to make it actually look like a party. The final coup is a scenic trick (design Kevin Depinet) that it would be churlish to spoil.
D’Amour’s comedy is also very funny.
The neighbours probably wouldn’t become friends in normal circumstances nor ours. Mary would be OK (she likes a glass or two) but Sharon and Kenny turn up for the alfresco dining with a bottle of Dr Pepper (which wouldn’t see them invited back to any Whingers’ barbecues) but then they did meet in rehab so we’d have to say “No, no, no”.
If American-lives-going-wonky is an overdone theme there’s still enough to engage. With its barbies, rehab, redundancy, camping trips, copious drinking, conflagrations and neighbourliness Phil saw yet another parallel: a roughed up version of Desperate Housewives.
*Footnote: Detroit ran at 1 hour 50 minutes without an interval so there was no chance to call an usher and stop the woman in the third row who was texting throughout the play. It’s pretty dismal the National staff or someone seated near her didn’t seem to do anything about it. Phil felt inspired to take up Mark Shenton’s cudgels but couldn’t locate her after the show. His mistake was searching for someone who looked like Bianca Jagger.