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Review: THE COUNTRY HOUSE at Dolphin Theatre, Onehunga, Auckland

by Donald Margulies

Review: THE COUNTRY HOUSE at Dolphin Theatre, Onehunga, Auckland

There's a lot of pressure to continue to be famous once you are famous and this is illuminated in this multi-dimensional slice of life and oddly comedic drama. Each character in this Donald Marguiles Chekhovian-inspired multi-generational play full of thespians is suitably complicated; characters are tempted by fame and are juxtaposed within themselves taunted by what they should want. Fame dominates, skews and destroys relationships; it has taunted and teased and deflated and denied. Fame is the conqueror. Or is it?

Set in the summer home in the Berkshires we meet a dysfunctional family and a couple of associates who have gathered to acknowledge the one-year anniversary of the passing of Cathy, beloved daughter, wife, mother and sister. Most of the characters are also there to attend the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

We meet glamorous Grandmother and grieving mother, Anna (Anna Baird) who is coming to terms with the loss of her beloved and famous actress daughter by ignoring it as much as she can. Baird successfully delivers, masking-but-not-masking the struggles of her age, her loss and her need to be famous.

Review: THE COUNTRY HOUSE at Dolphin Theatre, Onehunga, Auckland

Granddaughter Susie (Grace Cullen) is the only one who has avoided the grasp of fame although her childhood crush who is very famous does become more tempting than she cares to admit. Cullen's authenticity on stage draws the audience in and is an excellent contrast to the complicated thespians who struggle to differentiate between what is acting and what is real.
Susie's Father Walter (Tim Skinner) plays the huge disappointment, choosing to bring his new and very beautiful fiancee Nell (Cassandra Woodhouse) to the anniversary. His timing is poor and to make things worse Nell is stereotypically younger and considerably more beautiful than should be allowed. He's a successful Director, she is a fledgling actress and the nature of this 'love match' is blindingly obvious.
Everyone-loves-him TV star and hunk, Michael, played by James Wrighton further complicates the story when Anna invites him to stay the weekend. The ladies are filled with desire but he only has eyes for one.
Son of Anna and never-been-noticed Elliot has made a success of being unsuccessful in all aspects of his life. He is the quintessential 'I've missed out' character. Played by Romain Mereau he is superb in this role.
Dolphin never fails to deliver on its set and this play is once again a testament to the detail and authenticity of the time period.
The season of this New Zealand Premiere runs until the 5th March with covid rules of a maximum of 100 in the audience, masked and covid passports required. Audience members responded to the performance with plenty of energy and enthusiasm that was well deserved by the cast and production team, ably led by Mike Daley. Accolades to all involved

The Country House
Dolphin Theatre
Spring Street
The season ends 5th March

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