AMERICAN SONG - MELBOURNE
AMERICAN SONG, Red Stitch Actors Theatre, Melbourne, 7 October-5 November 2017. Photography by Teresa Noble: above and below - Joe Petruzzi
Americans love “their” songs, they love Walt Whitman, they love the words on the Statue of Liberty, some truly believe that America is the land of the bold and the brave. So, what happens when everything you hold dear about your American life, your home, your future, is lost in a flash? And a gun flash, at that. Is it environment? Upbringing? Or simply a random act, fate?
American Song, by Joanna Murray-Smith, is really everything Andy (Joe Petruzzi) holds dear about America. It is his dilemma and finally his anguish. He is building a wall (yes, really!) and as he adds to it he tells us his story. We learn about his upbringing, his first love who becomes his wife, her family and their son and their life together; his indiscretion with another woman, the event that finally leads to him buying a gun. Normal stuff – for America. Pretty tame on the outside but with Murray-Smith’s layered writing, it is anything but ordinary.
Tom Healey’s direction helps keep us focused within the work and Petruzzi’s Andy is multi-layered within it. This is his piece: an 85-minute monologue. He is so gentle in the telling of this story and Healey paces his performance to perfection, it builds towards the inevitable: you know something shocking is about to happen but when it does – if you are like me – my jaw dropped and my mouth gaped.
Music (Patrick Conan) is key to the production, unobtrusive but there like a metronome or meditation bell bringing us back to the here and now. The lighting design (Bronwyn Pringle) too is important, melding with the performance in ways that change Petruzzi’s face and demeanour – he is Andy. and the set (Darryl Cordell), with its walls the colour of an azure sky and the ochre of earth – and the rock wall – give us Andy’s world.
Murray-Smith is at her best here, and this work makes us think about what is and what could be in life, the decisions made or not made. Our decisions that determine where we are and what we do.
A pretty timely production, given the terror in Las Vegas, although given the virtually weekly occurrences in the USA, it’s likely to be timely any time. And then, like Andy and America, life goes on; you keep on building. Another decision made.
The play and the performance has stayed with me and at times tears well up. Highly recommended.