desert, 6.29pm - Melbourne
desert, 6:29pm, at Red Stitch, The Actors Theatre, 14 November-14 December 2017. Photography by Tessa Noble.
Part of Red Stitch INK new playwriting program, desert, 6.29pm by Morgan Rose is a terrific choice. Rose has a commanding body of work for a young woman and honed her skills in her home town of New Orleans. She has completed her Masters of performance writing at the VCA and lives in Melbourne and is currently the writer in residence at Riot Stage Youth Theatre. This play was in development for three years as part of that program.
desert, 6:29pm, is a slice of life. An ordinary family in an ordinary town doing ordinary things. There is, I believe love, but the ordinariness of their lives has that well sealed. Written in the vernacular of today with every sentence peppered with “like” – which didn’t send me from the theatre screaming – is spot on.
The small space has a timber-walled frame between the audience and the ordinary house – lounge room, dining room. It literally sets the scene for us as the viewers (design: Romaine Harper).
We open on the mother, Crystal (Sarah Sutherland), fantasising about being picked up by an Adonis, before being dragged back into reality: a family dinner to celebrate gay daughter Xan’s (Eva Seymour) graduation from high school, with an overnight visit from son Jamie (Darcy Kent), while husband Rico (Joe Petruzzi) daydreams about death. We also have a visit from Jamie’s girlfriend, “older” woman Abby (Ella Caldwell) who also has a child. Jamie having a friend, let alone a girlfriend, elicits both derision and support.
desert, 6:29pm is all about the struggle of Xan and her place in the world as she tinkers on the edge of suicide. She is desperate for intervention from her mother but is unable to ask. Her mother, beautifully played by Sutherland, is also incapable of doing anything even when plates are smashed. Their meals say it all – nothing of importance is said, just silences interrupted by Crystal trying to make conversation and sounding inane.
Xan talks in the third person – her own script to get through the day (and night). The suicide of a “friend” tips her over the edge, she is unable to sleep, unable to process the enormity. Her plight tears at your heartstrings.
Seymour is terrific as Xan, making you want to scream at her and hug her. Indeed, the entire cast is terrific which gives testimony to the strength of the script and the direction (Bridget Balodis).
Red Stitch is to be commended for their INK program. It is delivering some really fine work and showcasing new actors and creatives while working with some of the ensemble stalwarts – fantastic.
This is a must see.