REVIEW: Crossing The Divide Between Classical And Country, RHINESTONE REX AND MISS MONICA Is A Delightful Drama For Those Needing Some Joy And Hope In Amongst The Tragedy


REVIEW: Tennessee Williams' SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER Is Presented With Simplicity At Ensemble Theatre

Wednesday 15th March 2023, 8pm, Ensemble Theatre

David Williamson's RHINESTONE REX AND MISS MONICA makes a return to the Ensemble Theatre Stage, reuniting Georgie Parker and Glenn Hazeldine in the roles they originated under the new direction of Ensemble's Artistic Director, Mark Kilmurry. This work, first staged at Ensemble Theatre under Sandra Bates' direction has proved that this two hander has aged well in the 13 years since it debuted in 2010, with a few updates by the playwright.

REVIEW: Tennessee Williams' SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER Is Presented With Simplicity At Ensemble TheatreThe premise of RHINESTONE REX AND MISS MONICA is that Sydney Symphony Orchestra Second Violinist Monica (Georgie Parker) is not dealing with the inevitable implications of tendonitis of the shoulder but has chosen to utilize the sick leave to design a new kitchen for her Glebe Point apartment. Cautious from previous experiences with tradesmen, she quickly sets the conditions for accepting the somewhat misogynistic Gary's (Glenn Hazeldine) quote, namely "don't call me love", complete the work on time, and do it to the specifications listed by Monica and the Ikea kitchen planner but this is the least of the things that they clash on, the most significant being their divergent tastes in music. With an ongoing battle of Bluetooth, the classical prodigy and the one-time Golden Guitar nominee learn about music and more importantly about each other as 'wounds' are healed, and new opportunities awakened.

REVIEW: Tennessee Williams' SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER Is Presented With Simplicity At Ensemble TheatreWith all but one scene set in Monica's living room, set (and costume) designer Veronique Benett has created a space that reinforces that Monica is an Ikea fan with the trademark Swedish minimalism showing off her passion for music, literature and wine. Benett's costuming quickly establishes the characters, from Gary's pants that threaten a plumber's crack (don't worry, all renovations are done off stage), to Monica's smart casual look which has minor changes as the days pass. Trudy Dalgleish's lighting reinforces the passage of time with morning and afternoon light coming in through unseen window blinds and lamps lighting the evening scenes. Daryl Wallis' sound design incorporates the battle of classical and country music that plays out on stage along with providing scene changing interludes which ensure the energy remains as the stage is reset.

REVIEW: Tennessee Williams' SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER Is Presented With Simplicity At Ensemble TheatreThe hero of the work, however, remains firmly focused on the two performers as they verbally spar over their music and differing philosophies on life. Parker ensures that Monica is initially seen as determined and confident as she is thinks she can finally control something in her life as she sets the ground rules with Gary but before long, she learns that even her home renovation is out of her control. She shows that Monica has a vulnerability and as much she, and the audience probably wanted her to be a strong character willing to stand her ground and put the pushy handyman back in his place, she has the same imperfect humanity that so many women have. Hazeldine exudes the stereotypical masculine tradie while he ensures Gary's misogyny is held back just enough to keep him from turning into a thoroughly unlikable character. He conveys Gary's litany of lies with the smooth unashamed confidence that many a woman has seen in men wanting to get their way.

REVIEW: Tennessee Williams' SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER Is Presented With Simplicity At Ensemble TheatreRHINESTONE REX AND MISS MONICA is a delightful piece of light comedy with some good underlying explorations on human behavior. While there are times when Williamson could have written the characters as stronger, there is a truth behind both allowing the audience to see themselves or those they know on stage and hopefully consider if they would encourage different behavior in real life as sometimes drama doesn't need to ram an idea down the audiences throat but simply hold a mirror and ask them if they like what they see.

Photos: Prudence Upton

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