Friday, July 1, 2016

Theatre: Coincidences at the End of Time (★★★)

Written and directed by Scott McArdle
Second Chance Theatre
Designed by Sara Chirichilli
With Nick Maclaine and Arielle Gray
Subiaco Arts Centre
Until July 2

By the time Scott McArdle’s Coincidences at the End of Time gets under way, things have come to a decidedly un-pretty pass. Outside the beat up café Peter (Nick Maclaine) has holed up in, whopping great fire-breathing lizards are barbecuing whole neighbourhoods and a flesh-eating mist is gurgitating the survivors.
The waitress has been reduced to a smear of ash on the wall, while Peter has either had some pretty lucky escapes from the general misfortune or he’s disastrously bad at opening the café’s fiddly tomato sauce sachets.
For those of us familiar with the fashion for dystopia and apocalypse that infects our indie playwrights, the tea leaves are easy to read.
Of course – it’s a rom-com!

As if on cue, rom enters in the form of a gas-masked and bloodied Rachel (Arielle Gray). After a couple of tense moments of the “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns…” variety, we discover that their romance is past tense (as, I guess, most things are in this neck of the woods).
The arc of Peter and Rachel’s love affair – they met as workmates at a greeting card company and things proceeded swimmingly from there – is nothing out of the ordinary, but it’s recalled with considerable charm and conviction.
There’s also some very nifty stagecraft as Maclaine and Gray – both excellent and adroit performers in characteristically good form here – pop in and out of costumes and a cleverly uprighted bed without skipping a beat (the designer Sara Chirichilli deserves credit for her amusing and functional shoestring set).
The problem with the play is that its com is laid on pretty thin; there are some funny moments – the boss who hates contractions in the text of greeting cards especially so – but not enough to sustain the entertainment or make Peter and Rachel’s relationship appealing enough to care about.
At the end – never were their truer words, I guess – the strains of the great wartime ballad “We’ll Meet Again” plays over the blackout, reminding us that love has had to face the real threat of annihilation before, and triumphed.

This review appeared in The West Australian 1.7.16

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