Rhinestone Rex and Miss Monica
Rhinestone Rex and Miss Monica, Ensemble Theatre, September 24-November 20, 2010. Photos: Steve Lunam
DAVID WILLIAMSON is having fun with this two-hander comedy of opposites. Clunky title aside, the audience has fun too in the company of Georgie Parker at her acerbic yet vulnerable, brilliantly timed best, with a skilful Glenn Hazeldine in the less flashy but essential role of straight man of the duo.
Monica and Gary are such an unlikely pairing it’s a given from the first moment they clash that before “The End” flashes up they’ll fall in love and live bickeringly ever after. The comedy and interest is in how they arrive at that point; and when crafted by a master (Neil Simon, Williamson) it’s always a winner with audiences ever-hungry for laughter and piquant relationship duels.
Monica is as highly strung and fragile as the violin she’s been forced to give up because of RSI. She’s on sick leave from the Sydney Symphony and mopes around her Glebe apartment feeling resentful towards the 1st violins. She’s also painfully aware that she is no longer the prodigy of her childhood promise. And she wants her kitchen renovated to her express design.
Enter Gary, in every way a typical tradesman in that he knows better than the client what will make a good kitchen, he makes a horrible noise while at work and he also plays hideous music (Sara Storer? Felicity Urquhart?) on her music centre that he is convinced she’ll love. And he can’t understand her passion for hideous music: Mahler? Stravinsky? It’s a love affair made in an iPod just waiting to happen.
Adding and, it must be said, occasionally subtracting and distracting, is the soliloquising of Gary’s moonlighting alter ego, community radio station country DJ, Rhinestone Rex. Not only does it take the action out of Monica’s apartment to a studio desk set above the main stage, but it also allows for a change of pace as Rex expresses his true feelings for Monica, which are at odds with Gary’s often abrasive style and rather odd penchant for telling self-serving if rather sad whoppers. Nevertheless, the idea of a tradesman-craftsman whose own life is in bits that he can’t quite fix is a neat one; as is the deeply sensitive, aloof violinist who has been through the entire trombone section on occasion and doesn’t order one bottle of pinot at the pub because ordering two will save time.
Director Sandra Bates works well with two actors who know her and the theatre intimately; the result is an entertainment with much sparkle and laughter and, because of Georgie Parker’s superior skills, some heart and soul too. If a little pruning is carried out on the script to excise some clumsy exposition, out-of-place lecturing and hectoring, and to sharpen it to 90 minutes straight through bitter-sweet laughter; it could tour until Dolly Parton fronts the SSO – and beyond.